Published: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
Copy: Publisher through Edelweiss
Penny is furious, and who can blame her? She has to spend Christmas break alone at the Black Butterfly, an old inn at the coldest, bleakest edge of America—the coast of Maine. This "vacation" is the brainchild of Penny's flaky mother, who's on the other side of the country hunting ghosts. Penny most definitely does not believe in spirits. Or love. Or family. Until, that is, she discovers two very real apparitions which only she can see…and meets George, the handsome son of the inn's owner…and crashes into some staggering family secrets. If only Ghost Girl didn't want Penny dead. If only George were the tiniest bit open to believing. If only she could tell her mother. Then maybe this could still be a vacation. But it's not. It's a race for her life, her first love, and her sanity.
Shirley Reva Vernick is rapidly becoming the new hot item in young adult fiction. Her first novel, The Blood Lie, won the Simon Wiesenthal Children's Book Award, was silver medalist for the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and was an ALA 2012 Best Book for Young Adults. Her second novel, Remember Dippy—a feel good adventure about a fourteen-year-old boy shepherding his older autistic cousin through his summer vacation—was released in spring 2013 and won the Dolly Gray Literature Award from the Council For Exceptional Children. This time around, Shirley wanted to let loose with a page-turning coming-of-age romance mixed with ghosts and adventure. Shirley is the creator of the much visited storytelling website storybee.org. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Penny arrives at the Black Butterfly Inn mad at her mother and the world and seemingly determined not to give anyone a break. I could understand why she was mad at her mother, but that didn't make her behavior any more palatable for me. She did redeem herself a little as the story went on, but not quite enough. Her almost insta love with George was another factor that puzzled me. When she first met him, she was utterly unimpressed, then wham, all we hear about are his dimples and nice eyes. Still, in the end I was able to accept it, so it can't have been all bad.
The ghosts? Well, look at the cover of the book - does it say scary ghost story to you? The Black Butterfly was a quick and easy read that unfortunately never quite hit the 'creepy' scale for me. Perhaps it is written for younger teens and that is why, but somehow that sense of malevolence that I expect with my ghost stories was somehow missing. Blue was basically just a nice guy hanging around, and Starla to my mind just needed a swift kick. The real sense of dread did not materialize.
When all is said and done, The Black Butterfly was only an OK read for me, however I can see its appeal for some younger teens, and I can already think of a few of my regulars who would enjoy it.