Reviewed by Laura Baaijens
I Lived on Butterfly Hill is nothing short of a cute book. Set in the time of a dictatorship, there are hardships, of course, but the characters are all so likeable and inspiring that it nicely balances out the nerve-wracking situation they are all in. It may be a fictional girl living under a fictional government, but as Marjorie Agosín, the author, grew up during the real Chilean dictatorship, we can assume that she paints quite an accurate picture. At least from a child’s point of view.
We first see Celeste in her hometown, with her family and friends, going to the school she’s always gone too, enjoying all the beautiful parts of the Chilean culture. Yet things begin to change. Strange ships show up, classmates disappear, books are burned and eventually the grown-ups around her can not keep the truth of the situation from her anymore.
Her parents run a free clinic to help the poor and as the dictator does not agree with any sort of charity or free-thinking, they have to go into hiding. Eventually Celeste herself is forced to go live with her aunt in the United States until all is safe again.
How long will she stay there? Will she even be able to go back? And if so what will she find when she gets home? Can she blend in and feel at home in the States until then?
Everything is very uncertain. Not just for the characters in the book, the plot is quite unpredictable for the reader as well. It keeps this YA novel really interesting and will have you read quickly.
The story is accompanied by illustrations by Lee White. They were added after the copies for reviewers were printed. Judging by the cover, however, they will be amazing and will help lift this story to a whole new level. All in all, I Lived on Butterfly Hill is quite a unique book. It is poetic, a tiny bit spiritual, but most of all a compelling story about a girl growing up and finding her place in the world.
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