The Knife and the Butterfly

210p. CIP. Carolrhoda Lab. Feb. 2012. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-6156-5; ebook $12.95. ISBN 978-0-7613-8728-2. LC 2011021236.
Gr 9 Up—Martin "Azael" Aravelo wakes up one day and finds himself locked in a jail cell. The 15-year-old struggles to recount the still-hazy last few days: "I've got no memory of being brought in here… it's like my brain's a jacked-up DVD player that skips back again and again." There was a fight between Azael's MS13 boys and some punks from rival Houston gang Crazy Crew, but Azael can remember only a few details—his brother Eddie's blue shirt, a flash of red clothing, someone's hands covered in blood. So why is he behind bars? And what is the connection between the girl he is being made to observe—some white girl he has never seen before—and him? Short chapters alternate between "Now" and "Then," doling out clues in small bursts and generating a fast pace. Azael is a dynamic and sympathetic main character with an authentic voice. On the other hand, Lexi—the object of Azael's study—is not wholly believable. The author's choice to have Azael (and readers) digest large chunks of plot through her journal hinders the pacing at times, while the trite way in which Lexi often writes fails to match up with her character's streetwise persona. Still, Pérez sets up the mystery well enough in the story's first act to overcome any inconsistency in character, making this hard-hitting novel an assured success in libraries serving high school students.—Sam Bloom, Groesbeck Branch Library, Cincinnati, OH
After getting into a drug-dazed gang fight, Azael wakes up in a detention facility unlike any he has been to before. Denied all contact with the outside world, Azael spends his days observing an unfamiliar female inmate, Lexi, and trying desperately to remember what occurred during the incident. Although the gritty voice and intriguing story builds suspense, the clichéd revelation is disappointing.

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