The Butterfly Clues: Reminding Me How Much I Love Mysteries

The Butterfly Clues is written by Kate Ellison. It was published in 2012 by Egmont. It is Ellison’s first novel. Ellison’s website can be found here.

Genre: Young Adult, Tough Read, Realistic, Mystery


“Penelope “Lo” Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things.

But in the year since her brother’s death, Lo’s hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. When she discovers a beautiful antique butterfly figurine and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as Sapphire, Lo becomes fixated.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious “butterfly clues,” with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld—a world much closer to home than she ever imagined.”

~Inside Flap


Mario reaches for the butterfly figurine still glittering on the table, mid-afternoon sunlight casting shapes in marigold across everything. He hands it to me. “For you,” he says. “Thank you. Thanks for being cool.”

I nod but say nothing, and that’s that. Our unspoken contract. As he turns around, searching for something in a bag on the ground, the urge rips through me, fierce, insatiable. My arm shoots forward to the table, and I pull the horse pendant necklace into my fist and walk quickly, sharply away. Clutching tightly to the butterfly in one hand and the necklace in the other, I move through the market, passing tables of food and tables of fabric and trim and creatures made of wood and glass and metal and baseball memorabilia and faded T-shirts and old headdresses of satin and lace, but all I can really think about is her. Sapphire.

~Ellison 32-33

I stay still. Watching, listening, trying to make myself invisible, crouched low to the ground as the car door slams shut, a hard hollow sound. I feel breathless gain. The bouncer: he’s the one who’s been watching me. Could he have killed Sapphire? But why?

I think of those words, violently scrawled: Now you know what curiosity did. Be careful….

The words spin and slur around me, twisting blood-red between the leafless branches of the trees. Be careful be careful be careful.

I tap my feet against the gravel. Nine times. Again. Eighteen. Again. Twenty-seven.

I pull myself up from between the cars and count the cracks in the sidewalk as I walk the final block home. Every few seconds I whip around, terrified that I’ll see the sedan racing toward me again, the bouncer looming out from the shadows. My head is still whirring as I approach my house, climb up the clean white porch stairs. Tap tap tap, banana, open the door and walk inside, triple bolt it.

~Ellison 141

Cover Art 1

Warnings: Swearing, seedy bars, death, violence

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Wow! I am super, super impressed with this book. It grabbed me and pulled me right in from page one. Penelope is an engaging protagonist and the strength and courage she gets throughout the novel is wonderful to see develop; Flynt is that almost-fantasy, super-understanding, wonderful love interest that makes you want to “aww” every time he and she are together (and at the same time think that he’s way too perfect, but it fits so well that you almost don’t care). While I figured out the two main “twists” before they were revealed, the mystery was still pretty compelling and interesting, and served as more development for Penelope.

Cover Art 2

I also liked Keri and her role in the book. She was there not only as a potential friend, but as a reminder that Penelope can be wrong in how people view her and her OCD, and that her view is not always to be trusted.

For a moment, I was worried that Penelope’s dad would turn out to be like Valerie’s dad from Hate List, but, thank goodness, he proved me wrong.

What I Didn’t Like:

I would have liked perhaps a bit more resolution on behalf of Penelope’s school life (a.k.a Keri, and whether or not they become friends). Also, I felt like Flynt was more enabling Penelope’s OCD than anything.

Overall Review:

The Butterfly Clues is the best book with an OCD character that I’ve read yet. The mystery serves not just as a plot device, but as integral to character development. Penelope’s voice will suck you right in, and Flynt and Penelope are just darn cute. Also, cheers for Penelope’s dad not being one of those useless, stifling, etc. adults that are so prevalent in YA literature.

You can buy this book here: The Butterfly Clues

Coming Up Next: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

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