By M Anjelais
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1908435873
Whilst M Anjelais' debut novel may appear to be a fluffy teen chick-lit at first glance, this novel is far more intense than that. Twenty-one-year-old writer Anjelais has come up with a disturbing tale of first love in Breaking Butterflies.
The relationship between Sphinxie and Cadence begins before either of them was born. Their mothers were close friends as little girls, and made a pact. They agreed that if, when they grew up, one of them had a girl and the other had a boy, the two mothers would guide their offspring into marriage. In that way, the friendship of the two little girls would be cemented and go on for ever.
A pact like that can only end in disaster.
This means that the relationship between Cadence and Sphinxie isn't a case of boy meets girl, but a plan engineered by two deluded mothers from day one. As young children, Cadence and Sphinxie get on well enough. But then, one dreadful day, Cadence turns violent and slashes Sphinxie's face with a knife, leaving him scarred. Readers might think that this is enough for the parents to keep the two kids apart, but novels don't work like that.
Sphinxie and her mother live in America, and Cadence and his mother live in Britain. When the news that Cadence has cancer reaches Sphinxie and her mother, they decide to visit the boy before it is too late.
Cadence is a bright, creepy and disturbed young man; Sphinxie is a normal and rather-unsure-of-herself young lady. As Cadence's illness progresses, he becomes more demanding and unstable, but loyal Sphinxie decides to stay on in Britain to be with him as he moves towards certain death, even when her mother returns to America. How will this very determined young man claim Sphinxie for his own before time runs out?
The second half of Breaking Butterflies is like watching two cars move slowly towards each other, knowing that soon there will be an almighty crash. Anjelais is very clever at building up the tension inherent in the strange relationship, and thankfully doesn't take the easy way out as their story comes to a close.
This is a gripping and disturbing first work by a young writer who is already a confident storyteller. Ignoring the two unlikely and distracting names given to the protagonist, it's a very promising debut.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com