Butterfly, Sonya Hartnett

You wonder as you read ‘Butterfly’, if Sonya Hartnett is reliving some of the angst of her own teenage years.

Her characters are authentic, the self-judgement of Plum makes you squirm as you identify with it, and the desire to be accepted echoes that of most teens rather well. That she has placed the story at a time when David Bowie was a pop idol, and there was no hint of computer technology (Plum’s dream birthday gift is “a teeny-weeny television inside a silver ball with little legs”), makes this seem even more feasible.

Whether or not this is the case, Hartnett has created a candid observation of the many rituals of the teen years, and the judgemental nature of adolescent relationships. She also challenges our expectations of adults to behave in appropriate ways, as she leads Plum into a friendship with neighbour, Maureen, at a time when she is extremely vulnerable – on the cusp of adolescence.

Plum experiences the usual highs and lows of the teen years, at the mercy of her friends’ comments, and lovingly teased by her older brothers. A confrontation she is destined to negotiate arises due to her eldest brother’s particular friendship with Maureen, and one which challenges all her concepts of relationships with family, friends and adults in her life.

Is Plum able to metamorphose into a beautiful butterfly? Will her beautiful neighbour really ‘begin show her how to fly’ as the blurb implies? A book that is both enjoyable and one that will make you nod your head, sadly, as it explores and reflects some of the intricacies of teenage life.

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