The Boy with the Butterfly Mind
Victoria Williamson (J Fiction)
Elin has never been in trouble for anything in her whole life. She is smart, respectful, and helpful. A perfect princess determined to get her divorced parents back together…even though her mother is in a relationship and her father is married. Elin has everything under control, but she doesn’t have any friends. After all, it’s lonely being so perfect all the time. Then there’s Jamie who seems to be a magnet for trouble. He has ADHD and is easily distracted, forgetful, and messy. His parents are also divorced and Jamie blames himself…as he often does for most things that go horribly wrong. It would be nice if he had a friend to talk to, but it’s lonely being bad all the time. When these two very lonely and different worlds collide, order and chaos not only meet, but they end up living together in a house that seems to grow smaller by the minute.
The Boy with the Butterfly Mind is told from the alternating viewpoints of Elin and Jamie—both eleven. Although you understand the internal and emotional struggles of both characters, it is far easier to be sympathetic towards Jamie. Although he is completely aware of his challenges and limitations, he still absorbs an unfair amount of guilt and blame while managing to maintain a trusting and forgiving attitude. His journey is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and just when we think his life is getting easier, the rug is mercilessly pulled out from him. With so much against him, we can’t help but cheer on this perpetual underdog.
Williamson is a primary school teacher with a Master’s Degree in special needs education. She’s worked with children requiring additional support needs and this real-world experience is evident in her writing. We see it as Jamie details his struggles and feelings and especially when he describes his interactions with his mother who is completely overwhelmed and emotionally drowning. These occurrences are raw and ugly and uncomfortably accurate. When Jamie hurts, we hurt, which makes this book all the more thought provoking and poignant.
By focusing on Jamie, I don’t mean to downplay Elin and her feelings. She, too, is struggling with her own demons as she feels that the only way to win her father back is to maintain a level of perfection that is both unrealistic and impossible. She puts undue pressure on herself and the introduction of an imperfect and unwanted addition to her family just adds to her burden. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone and we can’t help but wince as we witness the walls around these people come tumbling down. However, the measures that Elin takes in her own personal “war” against these unwanted intruders are both cruel and dangerous and under these circumstances it is difficult to extend her any mercy or grace although she is keenly aware and witnesses the consequences of her actions.
Using data from 2016-2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 6 million children—between the ages of 3 to 17—were diagnosed with ADHD, which is why books like this one are so important and valuable. To show the bullying and isolation that children with this diagnosis experience is just the first of many steps that need to be taken to promote understanding, acceptance, and inclusion.
There’s a quote about friendship that I’ve used before in a review that’s from an anonymous source. It’s one of my favorites: A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden. Although Jamie felt broken and just wanted to be “normal”, he was lucky enough to find such a friend who made him realize that you don’t have to be perfect in order to be a perfect friend. I think the world would be a much better place with more people like that in it and I’m glad that Elin eventually realized this, too.
* Book cover image attributed to: www.abebooks.com
We’re now posting videos of some of our book reviews! Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thedustyjacket or on Instagram @tdjreviews and join in on the fun!