Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay (fiction) – disfiguring scars, unbroken spirit

Australian edition book cover of Butterflies, by Susan Gervay, published by Harper Collins | recommended on BooksYALove.comIf the scars are only on the outside,
why can’t people see past them to what’s really inside?

Katherine’s big sister thinks she should have been able to keep her from tumbling into the firepit as a toddler, even though Rachel was only in elementary school herself.

Her mother couldn’t recognize her baby in that hospital burn ward and her father couldn’t cope with staying in the city for her medical care. Mama cleaned houses so that she could be with Katherine through every new skin graft and therapy session, instead of taking the girls back to her parents’ home in Italy.

Yet Katherine is more a normal teen girl than she is a plastic surgeon’s project, even if some people label her disabled when they see her disfiguring scars.

Filled with hope amid all the the surgery and worries, Butterflies reflects what teen burn survivors told the Australian author over and over – “I’m still me.”

Book info: Butterflies / Susanne Gervay. Kane Miller, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Recommendation: Katherine is not the burn scars that cover her face and body. Her swim team victories prove that, her academic performance does, too. Is hoping that one more surgery will make her look more like everyone else such a bad wish?

Nearly 18, she doesn’t want to be defined by the accident that almost took her life as a toddler. Dad left her and mom and big sister Rachel soon after her fall into the garden firepit. Mama sat beside her after countless surgeries and skin grafts, giving up her career so that Katherine had every chance. And she has her mother’s gentle stubbornness to thank for finding a school where she’s just another teen, a little nervous about her first dance, wondering if any boy will ask her.

When her swim coach suggests that she try out for the Australian Paralympic team instead of National Team, Katherine realizes that she’s not willing for someone else to set limits on her and begins training to become a surf rescuer. William from school starts dropping by the café where she works – life is getting better, isn’t it? Her grandparents visit Sydney from Italy, bringing sunshine and love. Even Rachel is beginning to hang out with her college friends instead of hovering over Katherine.

But she’s determined that it’s time to ask the Professor to rebuild her missing ear. The gifted surgeon has assured them that someday her skin will be smooth, but surgery has no guarantees – is Katherine ready to risk a failed skin graft on her face?

The author’s time spent with burn survivors enlivens every page of this story of triumph and hope, brimming with life and thankfulness for the skilled hands of doctors and therapists who help so many. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

16 thoughts on “Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay (fiction) – disfiguring scars, unbroken spirit

  1. The characters are believable without being overly sentimental -Katherine has had to be tough to get through this much, but she’s still just another teen girl on the inside.
    Another winner brought to the US by Kane Miller Books.

  2. This sounds amazing. I like books of immigrant families, I wonder if Katherine and her sister speak Italian with their grandparents? I guess I will have to read to find out!

  3. I interviewed survivors, young adults, siblings, parents, doctors, medical staff … a lot of people, to get inside the characters skins. it was such an emotional journey writing Butterflies and I put everything I had into it.

    Hope you love it.

  4. Finally, a YA book to add to my queue that isn’t about vampires or a post-apocolyptic world. I honestly enjoyed The Hunger Games and Twilight was my guilty pleasure, but I’d love to sit back with a great YA dealing with real life. Thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Indeed, Ali, there *are* wonderful YA books that look at real life with an accurate eye, yet avoid being merely grumble of hopeless teen angst. Also look for my recommendations of Now is the Time for Running (Michael Williams) and This Thing Called the Future (JL Powers) to view teen life in today’s Zimbabwe and South Africa – authentic voices.

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