Reading on the commuter train is both a pleasure and a pain.
A pleasure because it’s lovely to escape into a world that isn’t packed with half-awake fellow travellers.
But a pain when the journey ends and the book has reached an interesting plot pinch point.
Which happened all too often with Butterfly Bones, the debut YA sci-fi novel from Colorado-based Rebecca Carpenter.
This is a difficult book to pigeon-hole.
On one level, it’s a story about 15-year-old Bethany’s metamorphosis from girlhood to womanhood and everything that goes with it – navigating the hell of first love, facing down school bullies, and negotiating a more mature relationship with her aloof scientist father.
All typical YA fodder.
But the sci-fi element adds another dimension – not least because the setting is very definitely present day small town America.
There’s no post-apocalyptic Armageddon waiting on the horizon.
Instead, this is about what happens when an experimental, life-saving medical treatment turns out to have an unexpected, possibly fatal, side-effect.
Which is where the butterflies come in.
And which is also what makes this such an unexpected treat.
Admittedly, the story begins slowly – and anyone expecting a YA futuristic scenario might be tempted into giving up.
The plot is punchy with several ‘sharp intake of breath’ cliff hangers along the way and Carpenter skilfully breathes life into motherless gutsy, bolshie, brave Bethany.
She’s so real, it’s hard to believe she’s not real.
The dad from hell
Not so her father.
He starts as disinterested dad, morphs into fun dad and then ‘I’d give my life for you’ dad before becoming the dad from hell.
Maybe the transition works for a younger audience – after all, how many teens really ‘know’ their dads?
But he didn’t cut the mustard for me.
However, this is a minor quibble.
Butterfly Bones, the first YA offering from new boutique publisher Lakewater Press, is a complex, confident debut.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Butterfly Bones is available to buy on Amazon from November 28.