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Sonya Hartnett

On the verge of her fourteenth birthday, Plum knows her life will change. But she has no idea how. Over the coming weeks, her beautiful neighbour Maureen will show her how she might fly. Her adored older brothers will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends - her worst enemies - will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen? ‘Lucid and beautiful, compassionate yet unflinching, enigmatic yet touching, sometimes tragic sometimes funny … a writer at the height of her powers.’ Sophie Masson, Weekend Australian ‘Rich, visceral … Hartnett’s tiny domestic insights unleash a tornado of human experience.’ Herald Sun ‘Hartnett’s prose is breathtakingly good … Will make adult female readers shiver with gladness at being all grown up.’ Big Issue


Sonya Hartnett’s latest novel (like Of a Boy, which won the 2003 Age Book of the Year Award) will appeal to readers well beyond the age of its nearly 14-year-old protagonist.

Plum Coyle exists in a semi-permanent state of agony. Her body is awkward, stuck between childhood and womanhood, mirroring the frenzied state within: “a witch-brew of frustration and self-hate”. Her always tentative place in the schoolyard hierarchy is slipping, despite the canny advice of her glamorous housewife neighbour Maureen, who Plum consults as her oracle. But Maureen’s seemingly beneficent friendship is oddly sinister. She is as desperate in her own way as Plum – clinging to her teenage days just as Plum is cringing from them.

This disquieting book is masterful. Hartnett blends perfect sentences, poetic imagery and crisply relevant dialogue – the snaky, silky barbs of Plum’s friends read as if taken from Tina Fey’s script for Mean Girls. (‘Sleepers look best on skinny girls.’) Butterfly perfectly inhabits early female adolescence, complete with tension-releasing hormonal tantrums and crippling uncertainty. It also beautifully captures the dynamic of an ordinary suburban family; the understated yet deeply felt love between Plum, her older brothers and her parents is cleverly juxtaposed with the Lord of the Flies cruelty of the schoolyard.

Read Jo Case’s interview with Sonya about Butterfly.

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