The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White

The Butterfly Shell

Written by Maureen White

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Joanne Owen's Pick of the Year 2015 Ideal for young teenagers who’ve grown up with Jacqueline Wilson, the cutting poignancy of this tenderly told tale will make readers’ hearts flutter and their souls soar. Marie is a sensitive, book-loving girl who longs to be a published writer. Her transition to secondary school gets off to an excruciating start when she’s mocked for her babyish pencil case and finds herself relegated to being known as the ‘Other Marie’ when a new Marie arrives in her class. But unbeknownst to her bullying classmates, the ‘Super Six’ gang, she's already the Other Marie; the first was the sister she never met, who died as a baby. As the harassment escalates, Marie starts cutting herself to numb her emotional pain. Increasingly insolated, she also starts hearing the haunting cries of a baby, whom she believes is her deceased sister. While Marie keeps all this to herself, strange Stella, who talks to herself and collects shells, seems to know her secrets and a friendship develops between them. After being cruelly set-up by the Super Six, Maria is involved in a serious accident, but when a shell in the shape of a butterfly is found in an unexpected place, she finds new strength and hope for the future. Following Maria’s life through one momentous year, and told in her inimitable voice, this is a powerfully haunting novel about grief, bullying and, ultimately, hope. A remarkable debut from an author YA readers are sure to want more from.~ Joanne Owen

A message from the author, Maureen White "I think the stories we hear when we are children stay with us. Especially stories about families.

When I was quite young my Mother told me a family story- how her younger brother died one day when he was a baby. Just went to sleep and never woke up. Died in his mother’s arms. I could hardly believe that something like that could happen- and to a baby. It was my first encounter with a cot death and when I started writing The Butterfly Shell, even though I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going , that image came into my mind and into the story.

Here’s another family story- a happier one: A few years ago my sister gave me a present for no reason at all - a small butterfly on a chain and the butterfly was made of abalone- a beautiful bluey green shell . I started writing The Butterfly Shell knowing that somehow , some version of this present would work itself into the story.

I’m not sure where stories come from but I do know they lead us somewhere- Somewhere we can experience the unusual and question the everyday. I hope The Butterfly Shell does just that. In the book the girls and their behaviour at school are I think recognizable, but the ghost crying in the night? Well I’m guessing most people don’t experience that. Once I started writing it wasn’t long before Marie and Stella and Rachel seemed very real to me. I hope they are for the reader as well and I hope The Butterfly Shell takes the reader somewhere , somewhere that is both familiar and strange at the same time."

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The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White

There are a few things about me you should know.

I always wear my butter?y shell – even when I’m swimming or sleeping.

I don’t cut myself any more.

And I believe in ghosts.

Someone should've told Marie that the first year of school was going to be this hard. Marie is tormented by Rachel and her gang The Secret Six, and isn't sure how she feels about Stella who is more than a little odd and always repeats the ends of sentences. Things start getting strange when Marie hears a baby crying in the night and is convinced it is her sister who died of cot death before she was born. When an accident puts Marie into a coma, things get even stranger and a shell in the shape of a butterfly is found in a most unexpected place. By the end of the year Marie realises that Stella is a true friend and that sometimes in life the unexplained can in fact happen.


Marie's feelings are beautifully and sensitively conveyed; the reader really feels part of the story and sympathises throughout -- a truly gripping and emotional read -- teenage girls being awful to each other is a mainstay of YA fiction. We tend to forget that bullying can be just as harmful at a younger age. I read this book right after reading Blubber by Judy Blume, and The Butterfly Shell holds its own against that classic depiction of bullying and its effects. The Butterfly Shell is quiet and understated, much like its narrator Marie. This is a sweet, strange little book about love, pain, grief and family. It's well worth a read if you like character-driven stories that deal sensitively with tough issues -- if ever an author got to the very kernel of how so-called `normal

... a book that demands to be devoured as it spins towards a weird, wonderful ending -- Evening Echo almost every synopsis of books I'm reading makes me sigh in frustration. And The Butterfly Shell was just another one to add on the bunch. Great, cutting, bullying,... Just another YA novel. Except that I was completely wrong about The Butterfly Shell. What I loved about this book is that it has all the typical YA elements (bullying, mental health issues, school,...) and completely turns them on its head. Nothing about this book is typical or as you expect it to be ... Clearly I adored this book and can't give it any less than five out of five stars ... I was honestly just blown away by it. The writing is enjoyable to read, Marie is a likeable character and the events keep you glued to the book -- there is much promise in this novel to suggest White could develop into a great writer for this age group -- told in a first person narrative and in a voice that is direct, honest and completely convincing, it's a description of grief, and an anatomy of a bullying. Raw and haunting as it is, it also manages to be a story of hope and of new beginnings ... This is a very impressive first novel, the writing is spare and effective, and the story will resonate with young readers -- ideal for young teenagers who've grown up with Jacqueline Wilson, the cutting poignancy of this tenderly told tale will make readers

... following Maria's life through one momentous year, and told in her inimitable voice, this is a powerfully haunting novel about grief, bullying and, ultimately, hope. A remarkable debut from an author YA readers are sure to want more from -- As the story evolves it becomes clear that her powers of observation and perception are not limited to mere topographical matters. Her insights into the complexities of young female friendships and rivalries, and of how both are affected by home and school environments, are conveyed with sharpness and precision ... all the more striking for not resorting to the melodrama or sensationalism that we might have expected in a narrative that details a young girl's experimentation with self-harm ... the overall delicacy of her approach matches that of the abalone shell that gives her novel its title -- Irish Times The blurb had hooked me, I wanted to know more why Marie was struggling so hard that she ended up self-harming, as well as the power behind the butterfly shaped shell. You'll need lots of tissues ... I want a sequel so I can find out what happens next! -- Nayu's Reading Corner this book tackles important issues in a sensitive but still uncomfortable way. You shouldn't be able to read a book like this without feeling emotionally invested and I for one felt Marie's angst. But it wasn't done in a whiney-angsty-overdramatic tone, it got the balance just right. Very impressive and well worth the read. -- The Butterfly Shell is vital reading for girls in sixth year of primary, or first year of secondary school. Maureen White covers difficult topics with a raw yet beautifully light touch -- Leabhar Love a lyrically written and thoughtful debut -- Irish Independent I found it a very poignant book and felt it captured very well the emotions of being an early teen and feeling vulnerable -- Juno Magazine A coming-of-age story about discovering who you are -- Juno Magazine a beautifully written debut novel ... will appeal to late primary school pupils -- InTouch White's short novel covers a lot of sensitive subjects with a light touch and realistic voice. Marie's honesty is endearing and her struggle with the school bully is pitch perfect. This enchanting little drama is a neat stepping stone between the pre-teen dramas of Jacqueline Wilson and the unflinching nature of teen and young adult fiction. Perfect for fans of Sally Nicholls -- BookTrust Maureen White offers a sensitive and astutely balanced view of a year in the life of Marie, a twelve year old newly facing the challenges of secondary school and the battle to establish an independent identity ... an uplifting and beautifully placed transitional read between the cosiness of younger fiction and the more adult themes of the Young Adult world. Highly recommended -- Bleach House Library An exceptional book. Complex issues including bullying and self-harm are handled with sensitivity and an honesty that is rare and appealing and shows the mastery that Maureen White possesses as an author. The book is superbly written; the dialogue is authentic and wholly credible and makes the main character's experiences all the more relatable. A thought-provoking story that stays with the reader long after the end of the boo * Literacy Association of Ireland *

About the Author

Maureen White is a playwright and a Director of Plan B Productions Ltd. This is her first novel for young adults.

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Book Info


192 pages
Interest Age: From 12 years


Maureen White
More books by Maureen White


O'Brien Press Ltd

Publication date

3rd August 2015




Publisher Profile

O'Brien Press Ltd is an imprint of O'Brien


The O'Brien Press is Ireland's leading general publisher of both adult and children's books. Our list covers a huge range, including biography, humour, photography, history, art, fiction, politics, cookery, sport, music, memoir, true crime and travel and we are constantly expanding into new and exciting areas.

Publisher's Website

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