A couple of weeks ago I was pawing through all the great YA books in my colleague Karin Perry’s office. She wasn’t even there so I didn’t have her great tips to guide me. I decided to pick up two books that are very different but also have striking similarities: each deals with a main character who has a serious mental illness. Additionally, both books are about friendships that begin in early childhood and continue, with dramatic ups and downs, to conclusions where all are in their late teens. What’s more, both are debut novels for their authors.
Breaking Butterflies is about a girl and a boy whose mothers promote their close ties beginning when they are babies. Sphinx, the girl narrator, is sweet and unassuming, while the boy, Cadence, is a full out sociopath. As they enter their late teens, Cadence is diagnosed with leukemia and the story follows their relationship through the late stages of his life. The other book, Crash and Burn, is about two boys who met in elementary school. Easygoing Steven Crashinksy, aka. Crash, follows a new acquaintance, David Burns, and ends up being part of an attempt to burn down the school. Crash is plagued by ADD but in general a normal kid. Burns, as he is called after the incident, is bi-polar and also traumatized by the death of his father in the twin towers.
I’d like to comment on them together because I read them one after the other and because they are related in themes. I am positive that I could hold these up to a group of high schoolers, say a little about each, and get eager takers to check out one or both. I must say that I am ready for a book about “regular” people after these two forays into the minds of two kids who are terribly damaged. But almost everyone is a bubble or two off level at least sometimes. I recommend both books for older teens and adults.