Friday, May 27, 2022

Emma Scott - The Butterfly Project

At age fourteen, Zelda Rossi witnessed the unthinkable, and has spent the last ten years hardening her heart against the guilt and grief. She channels her pain into her art: a dystopian graphic novel where vigilantes travel back in time to stop heinous crimes—like child abduction—before they happen. Zelda pitches her graphic novel to several big-time comic book publishers in New York City, only to have her hopes crash and burn. Circumstances leave her stranded in an unfamiliar city, and in an embarrassing moment of weakness, she meets a guarded young man with a past he’d do anything to change...
Beckett Copeland spent two years in prison for armed robbery, and is now struggling to keep his head above water. A bike messenger by day, he speeds around New York City, riding fast and hard but going nowhere, his criminal record holding him back almost as much as the guilt of his crime.
Zelda and Beckett form a grudging alliance of survival, and in between their stubborn clash of wills, they slowly begin to provide each other with the warmth of forgiveness, healing, and maybe even love. But when Zelda and Beckett come face to face with their pasts, they must choose to hold on to the guilt and regret that bind them, or let go and open their hearts for a shot at happiness.
The Butterfly Project is a novel that reveals the power of forgiveness, and how even the smallest decisions of the heart can—like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings—create currents that strengthen into gale winds, altering the course of a life forever.

Comment: Counting this one, I had added three books by this author to my TBR. All seem to have great premises and blurbs and I've seen some GR friends have liked them too. I've started with this one simply because it was the first one of those three to have been published.

In this story we meet Zelda Rossi, a young woman who still lives with the grief and guilt of having lost her younger sister ten years ago. Zelda feels responsible because she couldn't make a fast decision and her sister was kidnapped by a man who was later convicted and arrested. Now Zelda copes the only way she can and her coming books art is what made her come to NY to try the publishing houses. However, things don't go well in that regard and she ends up being robbed at the hostel where she stayed. That same night she randomly meets Beckett, a waiter at a restaurant and after a chance decision, they become roommates.
Beckett Copeland has his own grief and guilt to deal with, after a robbery gone wrong, a man had a heart attack and he feels responsible. Now having the convicted label isn't easy even if his parole officer is a good and optimist guy. Sharing space with Zelda should be just one more good action to counterbalance his guilt but it turns out they are more than similar guilt stories...

At first, this was full of angst. Both main characters were feeling down on their luck and as if the world could not be good for them, but at the same time part of them felt they deserved it. I can understand this feeling and angst level and while it made things feel rather bleak, I was still invested in seeing how their journey would go and what kind of decisions they would make.

The characters' circumstances were hard to imagine and obviously everyone would have different reactions to the same events, but I felt rather sympathetic towards them, imagining that my moral code code would have been similar, were I to face something like them. I do think the author has made it easy for the reader to commiserate and the subjects dealt with were specific but realistic enough to create a certain vibe for this book. Zelda and Beckett seemed a bit too good to be true at times, personality wise, but I was looking for to see how their luck would improve.

However, I must say that despite the more positive aspects, I feel the choice of writing this in first person, with alternate chapters from both Beckett and Zelda's POV, wasn't the best decision. I have said many times and will repeat it, that it's really difficult to write good romance in first person, mostly because of the inner thoughts and dialogue - how can we believe people think like that in their heads? - and here it wasn't exception. I rooted for these two but after a few chapters I was already annoyed at the way they talked and thought and I couldn't turn off my dislike.

Zelda did feel a little whiny from a certain moment on. I can certainly appreciate her sense of guilt and how she felt she had to cope - by putting distance between the place where it all happened  - but we are told her family is doing well. Coping, dealing with mourning in a seemingly healthy way, not putting blame on Zelda. I kept thinking that, despite your own emotions, why such negative reaction to the rest of the family, if they had been punishing to her, perhaps, but if not...

As for Beckett, I suppose I could understand him better, he didn't want to rob anyone, and with some mates they were caught by the couple whose house they broke into, causing the man to have a heart attack.He keeps this image in his head, as well as the face of the widow, to whom he writes, not to ask forgiveness but as a way to apologize. I liked Beckett, and his quiet nature and thought process felt more appealing to me but I believe his romance with Zelda was nor presented in the best way it could, nor did it fascinate me. I actually skipped the love scenes because I didn't see the chemistry they were supposed to have.

Closer to the end, some situations are wrapped up in a slightly too convenient way. Had the story been more balanced or more romantic to me, this would probably feel more natural or sweet but the word that comes to mind is cheesy. The story isn't bad but I feel the whole potential wasn't executed in the best way and some details felt unimpressive. 
I still have two books to read, but now I'm wary of them, if the writing style (likely) is the same, my only hope is on the characters' development...
Grade: 6/10

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