I will admit that I had superficial reasons for wanting to read this book: I love butterflies, which made me fall in love with the cover. Also, I wanted to try some “realistic” YA after all the vampire books I read.
Butterflies in May is about the seventeen-year-old Ali, who is deeply in love with her boyfriend Matt. But then she unexpectedly finds herself pregnant and Ali has to make some difficult decisions regarding her life, her child, and everything else.
Because I was so enthousiastic about the butterflies, I forgot to realise that books about teen pregnancy often try to get a message across. I have to admit that that message wasn’t as obvious in this book as it is in some others. Overall, Ali’s struggles seemed very realistic, even if Matt changing his mind a couple of times was a bit sudden and less convincing. And some of the things were refreshing: Matt doesn’t get angry and doesn’t break up with Ali all at once, there is a contrast with another pregnant teenager that shows a different side to the story and Ali’s parents are very supportive and try to help her as best as they can. Nevertheless, I found myself noting down and tsk-ing at several things in the book.
For example, why is it that in books dealing with unexpected pregnancy we always have the “one time we forgot a condom” mistake? Why not have people get pregnant on the second time they forgot, for once? Oh, and why are these girls never on birth control? We could have a girl taking the birth control pill but not taking it regularly for a change instead of the condom story? These are of course all general complaints about pregnancy stories that I guess I got frustrated by in this particular book because it is all we ever hear.
My biggest complaint is that Ali suddenly doesn’t seem to approve of having sex anymore. When Ali is pregnant and her friend decides to sleep with her boyfriend, she gets really worried and tries to warn her off several times. Why? Because now that she knows the consequences, she thinks that if she could do her life over again, she would certainly wait for a very long time. I don’t know why I reacted to this so badly. Maybe it makes sense if you think about what Ali had to deal with? But these are clearly not just Ali’s thoughts, there is an intention, a message, hidden in them. Well, not hidden, I guess. You see, personally, I would prefer it if teenagers would wait a bit before jumping into bed with their boyfriends at 14. And I would love for them to “be more responsible” at times. But there is something about having someone in a book trying to tell you what the responsible thing to do is that just makes me a bit angry. I don’t know, I just don’t like the whole *warning, have sex before you get married and you will get pregnant and regret it* theme in teen pregnancy books. I don’t think the marriage theme was mentioned in this book, but waiting until a certain age was certainly implied.
And so I was reading Butterflies in May wholly convinced that this was not a book for me, that I would not recommend it to a lot of persons.. but then the unexpected happened: I found myself crying a lot during the last quarter of the book. Let’s be clear about something: I cry rather easily. So it wasn’t the crying in itself that came as a surprise. It was that I had been sceptical about the book and what was happening while reading it and that the crying showed me that somewhere along the lines, somewhere while reading and noting down my problems with the book, I had actually begun to care about Ali.
So no, I would not tell you to go out and buy this book, right now. But if you ever come across it, and you feel like giving it a try, don’t let my scepticism hold you back. Because really, if you do not mind a book with a message, there is a touching story in here.
This review is based on a NetGalley copy of the book.