Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.



3.3 3
by Sonya Hartnett

See All Formats & Editions

Growing up during the 1980s in the safe complacency of the Australian suburbs, Plum Coyle should be happy. But on the cusp of her fourteenth birthday - and on the fringe of her peer group - she lives in terror of the disapproval of her cruel and fickle girlfriends, and most of all, she hates her awkward, changing body with a passion.

So when Plum's


Growing up during the 1980s in the safe complacency of the Australian suburbs, Plum Coyle should be happy. But on the cusp of her fourteenth birthday - and on the fringe of her peer group - she lives in terror of the disapproval of her cruel and fickle girlfriends, and most of all, she hates her awkward, changing body with a passion.

So when Plum's glamorous next-door neighbour Maureen, a young wife and mother, befriends Plum, Plum responds with worshipful fervour. Plum feels herself reinvented. With Maureen, she becomes the girl she's always wanted to be. But Maureen has an ulterior motive for taking Plum under her wing . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hartnett eviscerates modern suburban life in this blistering story of broken families, buried secrets, and foundering lives. Plum Coyle is almost 14 and terrifically insecure, with two older brothers, Justin and Cydar, who love her but are as emotionally helpless as Plum and their parents. Plum prepares for her 14th birthday, desperately trying to stay afloat with a set of friends who are ready to pounce on the slightest vulnerability, and befriends an older neighbor, Maureen, but cruelties and pain are never far away. Plum's secrets are humiliatingly revealed, as are those of Justin and Maureen. Hartnett's exquisite prose is soaked in visceral descriptions of consumerism, human weakness, and an ugliness that lies just below the surface of everyday life; the closest the book comes to offering a moment of hope is when Cydar, by far the most self-aware character, sacrifices to purchase Plum the birthday gift she wants more than anything--a television. It would be easy to dismiss Hartnett's story as misanthropic, yet it's not so much contemptuous of humanity than of what it has become. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Rachel Wadham
Thirteen-year-old Plum Coyle is a child on the cusp of becoming a woman. Longing to fit in with her friends, Plum works hard to gain their attention, only to find herself on the outside. Believing that things could be better if her body were more beautiful and her family less eccentric, Plum is drawn into a friendship with her married neighbor, Maureen, who convinces her that the glamour she desires is easily attainable. Maureen, however, is having an affair with Plum's older brother Justin, and when this betrayal is revealed, Plum finds herself with little support as she must decide the type of person she really wants to become. With heavy language, lavish imagery, and a psychological focus, Hartnett's novel is, stylistically, a piece of literary fiction—a genre not often seen in the cannons of young adult literature. While the promotion of the novel aims for this audience, the novel very clearly spans the YA and adult market. By alternating voices between Plum, Maureen, Justin and Plum's other brother, Cydar, the work loses much of its teen appeal as youth will not respond to the raw emotions and relationships of the prominent adult characters. Much of the description is overwritten with too many metaphors that make little sense, another factor that will not appeal to teens. While many will praise this novel for its emotional depth and lavish style, many others, including teen audiences, will not be able to connect to what the author offers. Reviewer: Rachel Wadham
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Plum is about to turn fourteen, and she struggles to ease her self-doubts and build her confidence. She is unhappy with her body. She wonders if her school friends really like her at all. She feels their meanness. She wonders about her two beloved older brothers, Justin and Cyder. She senses they are hiding secrets and pulling away from her. When next door neighbor, Maureen, befriends Plum, she feels a surge of self-worth. Maureen encourages her to throw out her lunch in order to lose weight. She tells Plum that perhaps she is too good for her friends. What Plum does not know is that Maureen is having an affair with her brother, Justin—an affair that Justin wants desperately to end. With the support of Maureen and some precious items that Plum stores in a hidden briefcase, Plum's strength grows and she plans her upcoming birthday party. The night of Plum's party does not go as planned. When Plum finally shares what happened at the party with Maureen, she is relieved to hear that Maureen still believes she is a good person. Written in astonishingly beautiful, poetic prose, Hartnett takes readers on a journey through the minds and actions of four complex characters. Themes of self-worth, family dysfunction, and the agonies of personal secrets fill this rich young adult novel. Reviewer: Jody Little
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Using her characteristic surprising and spot-on descriptions, Hartnett drops the usual intensity down a notch or two in this tale. While events seem to be taking place in a recent past, Plum is like every teen in her emotional upheavals, her yearning to fit into a group, and her obliviousness to the feelings of those around her. The narrative mostly focuses on Plum herself, her older brothers Justin and Cydar, and their interactions with a neighbor, Maureen, and her young child. Plum, who is young for her almost 14 years, has a collection of mundane objects that she treats as talismans to keep her safe from day-to-day humiliation by her so-called friends, girls who either taunt and tease or ignore her. Maureen, who is in her mid-30s, offers sage advice and support, but readers know that her motivations for helping Plum are questionable. The situation comes to a head at the girl's birthday slumber party. Her parents and brothers truly love her but are incapable of advising her adequately and generally watch her suffering helplessly. The deliberate pacing, insight into teen angst, and masterful word choice make this a captivating read to savor.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
860L (what's this?)
File size:
671 KB
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Sonya Hartnett is the winner of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest award for lifetime achievement in children’s and youth literature. She lives in Australia.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Butterfly 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
YA-Addict More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of coming of age stories, and the premise of BUTTERFLY sounded like it would be a good one. I almost decided not to even finish this one in the beginning, because the some of the wording was so strange. I wasn't sure if that was because this is written by an Australian author, or because it takes place in the early 80's. But I continued on, and I found Hartnett's writing to be beautiful. Her writing is poignant and lyrical. She makes the most mundane thing sound exciting. Plum, the main character, is just turning fourteen. She is about as awkward as you can get at that age. She has horrible self image, and is uncomfortable with the changes her body is going through.She obsesses a great amount about her body. Her so called friends treat her like she is the least important in the group. Some parts were tough for me to read, because I felt Plum's self consciousness and self doubt as if it were my own. Puberty is a hard stage for anyone to go through, something I never want to go through again. Through Plum, Hartnett shows an honest representation of being that age. Plum also has two older brothers that she adores. But they tend to be mysterious with her. She also friends a woman by the name of Maureen next door, who is a wife and a mother. Maureen is a poised woman. She is exactly what Plum wants to be like some day. Maureen and Plum's brothers all tie into this story, and they have secrets that shatter Plum's images of them. I was surprised to see that the story switched from Plum's, to her brother's, to Maureen's point of view. This book seems to be a cross between YA and Adult. With the brothers and Maureen's POVs, you see adults dealing with adult situations. With Plum's POV, you see a young teenage girl trying to make sense of the world. Hartnett broke the barrier here, and I appreciate that kind of bravery in a writer. BUTTERFLY was somewhat painful to read at times, but it showed an honest and realistic look at growing up. It shows the truth, that we all have to be the awkward caterpillar before we can be the beautiful butterfly. I am glad I decided to keep reading, because I would have been missing out on a great read if I didn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Felt that book was on the busy side with too much going on and not very strong conclusion. Book otherwise pretty good
SitHereandRead More than 1 year ago
BUTTERFLY, by Sonya Hartnett, brings you to a time when everything sucks, you can never be good enough and most of all you just want to be liked by everyone; that time was when you were 14 years-old like Plum in Butterfly. Plum doesn't like too much about herself, she collects trinkets that remind her of people she wishes she were more like, and she finds a fast friend in an older woman who gives her advice she thinks will make her better. This is a truly wondrous coming of age story of the typical insecure young girl. I picked Butterfly from a list and was expecting a girl finding herself through harsh times but this is truly a coming of age tale. Ariella "Plum" Coyle doesn't want to be herself; she wants to be prettier, thinner, and of course more popular. She thinks all of those impossible until she meets Maureen who is more entwined with her family than she realizes. Maureen promises Plum what she wants if she'll do this or change her name to that, but when Plum's friends just begin to like her and Maureen's advice seems foolproof shocking discoveries are made and Plum's world falls apart. I find that Sonya Hartnett is able to capture the pure hell that a young teenage girl must endure just to be happy. Plum faces everything that a 14 year-old must face. Problems with how she looks, not being popular enough, not being able to be yourself. Plum puts a smile on for people she doesn't honestly like but is desperate for them to like her. Like anybody Plum wants to fit in. She finds refuge in her brothers, Justin and Cyder but finds that sometimes you cannot even trust the ones you truly do love. I have not read any of Sonya Hartnett's other novels but I wil be looking in to them. This novel is easily comparable to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye but set in modern time from a less cultured young girl point of view. I was astounded at how accurately Hartnett was able to capture the evilness and snippiness of Plum's 'friends'. Overall this book is absolutely terrific. You'll find yourself wanting to help guide Plum away from the bad people and easily avoidable messes.