The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes


Why is it always harder to write reviews about books you truly love? Maybe it's just me, but when I love a book, so many times I love it because it has this ineffable quality that I just connect with. It makes me feel...something strange and wonderful and powerful. Now how can I justify that to a potential reader?

Nevertheless, I have to try. Because, you guys, The Fall of Butterflies is magnificent. And I encourage everyone in the world to run--yes, run--to the nearest bookstore--and yes, brick and mortar bookstore--and purchase a copy of this masterpiece. It will make you cry, it will make you laugh over and over again, it will make you feel understood. It will make you feel. And isn't that why we all read? Why we all live?

Willa Parker, 646th and least popular resident of What Cheer, Iowa, is headed east to start a new life. Did she choose this new life? No, because that would be too easy—and nothing in Willa’s life is easy. It’s her famous genius mother’s idea to send her to ultra-expensive, ultra-exclusive Pembroke Prep, and it’s only the strength of her name that got Willa accepted in the first place.

But Willa has no intentions of fitting in at Pembroke. She’s not staying long, she decides. Not at this school—and not on this planet. But when she meets peculiar, glittering Remy Taft, the richest, most mysterious girl on campus, she starts to see a foothold in this foreign world—a place where she could maybe, possibly, sort of fit.

When Willa looks at Remy, she sees a girl who has everything. But for Remy, having everything comes at a price. And as she spirals out of control, Willa can feel her spinning right out of her grasp. In Willa’s secret heart, all she’s ever wanted is to belong. But if Remy, the girl who gave her this world, is slip-sliding away, is Willa meant to follow her down?

Willa is the character that every editor and every reader dreams of. Her voice is strong and unique and unforgettable. She has the ability to laugh at and hide her pain with humor, but she still feels so much. Her glibness is both her protection and her savior; and she has this wonderful ability to critique her surroundings and society, and understand just how different people live in a way I think so many don't. I understand her and her struggles on a very personal level, and saw the same fears I experienced when I was in high school--and sometimes still feel. I was so worried she was going to fall down the rabbit hole of destruction with Remy, and I'm so unbelievably happy that she pulled herself back up.

I could spend eighteen years piecing apart the psychology of Remy, but I'm not going to. Because this story isn't about Remy; it's about Willa. But I will say a few things. Like how I hate her, but also want to be her, and then hate her, but also idolize her, and then hate her some more. Which is how I'm supposed to feel. She's a complicated person, who both wants and doesn't want to be complicated. She wants to be seen and be the center of attention and be idolized, but she doesn't want to at the same time. She's a scared, lonely, wealthy girl that has the world at her fingertips, but she can't see beyond the shit. It was a painful car crash to watch. But written so damn well.

I had a hard time liking the relationship between Remy and Willa, because you shouldn't. At it's core, this is a story about a toxic friendship. Remy unintentionally saved Willa from herself and her loneliness, which is wonderful, but that's about the only good thing that came from it. Okay, that's not totally true. Remy helped and allowed Willa to be herself (most of the time) and made Willa keep trying. But their relationship was rooted in unhealthy experiences, because Remy is an unhealthy girl. The relationship might feel important and change your life, but in the end, you can't help someone who doesn't want help or save someone who doesn't want to be saved. They drag you down, and after Willa learned how to be happy and accept herself on her own, she had to make the difficult decision of being by herself again.

Please give Andrea Portes all of the awards for every category ever. Because she deserves them. The writing of this story is impeccable. Willa has the ability to examine society and crack pop culture jokes and make you feel because Andrea Portes wrote her. And I will be forever grateful.

I don't know if this review has encouraged you to read this book, but it's truly a complicated analysis of friendship and growing up and being yourself when you're discovering who that is. And I'm so tongue-tied trying to describe how much this novel means to me.

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