Juan Pablo and the Butterflies by J.J. Flowers

    Juan Pablo and the Butterflies by J.J. Flowers, Merit Press, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5072-0214-2

Format:  hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 4

Genre: contemporary fiction

What did you like about the book? It’s easy to root for Juan Pablo and Rocio, two teens who flee their home in Mexico after a drug cartel moves to town. Both main characters suffer tremendous loss within the first few pages of the novel, but their devotion to each other and the memory of their grandparents’ wisdom gives them strength. As they try to make their way across the border to California, they are being pursued by a vicious killer. Thankfully, a number of strangers help them, and Juan Pablo believes that his spiritually-minded grandmother is also guiding him from beyond the grave. The action is non-stop with some very poignant moments, particularly when Juan Pablo finds himself acting as an interpreter in a children’s detention center. This book is particularly important to help readers understand the plight of illegal immigrants, and all readers should come away inspired by Juan Pablo’s perseverance in the face of unrelenting difficulties.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The tone was inconsistent. At times, it was terribly dark and at other times it felt like a rousing adventure novel. The book began with an attempted rape and several murders, yet midway through the main character was playing hide-and-seek on a cruise ship. At times it read like a middle-grade novel, and in other places the language and content are definitely young adult.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Read Alikes? Recommend to mature readers looking to understand the plight of illegal immigrants, along with Diego’s Crossing by Robert Hough. Younger readers may like Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries and high school libraries may want to purchase this book.

Where would you shelve it ?  Young Adult Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Not necessarily, although it was a worthwhile read.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA

Date of review: July 25, 2017

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