Andrea Portes, The Fall of Butterflies, HarperCollins, 1 June 2016, 400pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780062497802
Although sixteen year old Willa Parker lives with her Dad, her famous economist mother has decided she “should” finish her schooling at the exclusive Pembroke Prep in New England before going on to Princeton. A farm girl from What Cheer, Iowa, Willa feels out of her depth in this new world of privilege and connections, until she is befriended by the mysterious, beautiful rebel Remy Taft, the coolest girl in the school whose family is related to the President and father is on the school board. Through Remy, Willa is introduced to an elite world of money, drugs, and the handsome Milo Hesse, whilst trying to maintain her grades to keep her scholarship and be eligible for the university of her choice. It soon becomes apparent however that this world of privilege is not all it is cracked up to be. How can Willa help her friend when she is finding it difficult to help herself? And how will she face her mother when she finds out that Willa is not going to Princeton?
Despite the difficult opening chapters which require the reader to wade through Willa’s meandering internal dialogue and the varying quality of the narrator’s voice, its strength is in its depiction of the rarefied life style of the uber rich which makes this a book worth persisting with: through her first person narrative, Willa’s keen eye and wit paints a vivid, intriguing, and disturbing world of wealth and spiraling self-destruction. A mid teen readership would readily identify with the issues Willa and her peers are wrestling; those of friendship, love, drugs, and the pressure for academic success.
Reviewed by Mem Capp