Elin Watts and Jamie Lee have complicated lives. He, trying to manage his ADHD and strained relationship with his mum, and she, striving to be perfect enough to win her absent father back. When their divorced parents’ new relationship forces the children to share a home, their lives intersect – and get even more complicated.
This book’s author, Victoria Williamson, won widespread acclaim for her first novel, the Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, about a Syrian refugee adapting to life in Glasgow. While The Boy with the Butterfly Mind tackles a different topic, her sensitive writing demonstrates the same knack for putting herself in the shoes of children who face emotional upheaval.
In this case, Jamie and Elin’s contrasting behaviours set them on a course for domestic drama from the outset. Jamie wants to fit in, but sometimes struggles to concentrate and control his impulses. For Elin, control – whether of her academic scores, or her home environment – is critical, but when she tries to take control of Jamie, she finds herself out of her depth, with disastrous results.
As the children in this story get to know each other, and the reader gets to know them, we are reminded of how much more everyone is than their classification.
In Jamie, we find someone who is kind, passionate and makes a fantastic peanut butter, jam and whipped-cream sandwich. Beneath Elin’s groomed and contained ‘class swat’ exterior, we meet an anxious child for whom every day is a battle to succeed. It’s impossible not root for both children to find their own self-worth, and to come to value each other too.
The Boy with the Butterfly Mind is an enlightening and inspiring story that encourages its readers (whatever their age) to judge less, and to get to know people more. It’s also an entertaining family drama, with a starring duo who we would be happy to join for another escapade.
The Boy with the Butterfly Mind, by Victoria Williamson, Kelpies