I remember the day they burned the babies.
Imagine a stark world where medication is your only sustenance, manufactured offspring your only company and a dark secret your only hope. Where the very air is poison and the concept of humanity has been lost. This is the world of The Night Butterflies.
Litchfield centres her debut novel within a dark dystopian future, a place where learning to survive is key in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse but it comes at a price. Exploring the devolution of humanity in a world of uncertainty, this accomplished YA novel is told through the eyes of five different characters whose lives intertwine and influence each other’s as they search for a reason to live.
The beautifully poetic title juxtaposes the world it introduces and Litchfield consistently uses wonderfully lyrical turns of phrase to describe the harshness of her characters environment. The five very distinct narrative voices that she chooses to tell her story with are expertly woven together to keep the pace and plotline moving whilst adding depth to each individual. The Teacher, a quietly optimistic, strong and maternal character, is my favourite of the five but even the raw and staccato voice of synthetic-child Jimmy-1 is developed into something more meaningful throughout the course of the novel. Litchfield expertly plays with language and viewpoints to ensure the fluidity of the story and, as such, the reader can never second guess where the author will take them next.
Unlike most recently released dystopian YA novels, The Night Butterflies doesn’t centre on a prescriptive or linear teen romance but instead the story is opened up into a more philosophical sphere by coupling teen voices with adult ones. This increased access to different perspectives allows for a more rounded and deeper reader experience and I loved the contrast between the wistful reminiscences of pre-apocalypse life with the youthful confusion that comes from questioning and challenging the existing order.
Change is always unsettling and within the confines of an uncertain world it has the power to rewrite order, society and perspective. The Night Butterflies continuously debates the concept of the monster and the monstrous and blurs the boundaries between the synthetic and the natural. These adapting absolutes create a tense, claustrophobic yet electric atmosphere throughout the novel and builds suspense right up to a pitch!
Litchfield has delivered a refined and uniquely written dystopian debut that twists, turns and truly delights. The Night Butterflies is definitely a book to read from an up and coming author who is one to watch!