The Butterfly Shell

The Butterfly Shell

Marie is hurting. Between the mean girls tormenting her by day and a ghostly cry waking her at night, her first year at secondary school was far from what she had expected. But Marie is now writing her story, the story of a very strange year and a very special shell which was found in a most unexpected place.


LAI Awards Young Adult Category - 2017

Literacy Association of Ireland - Short-listed

Paperback: €8.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Size:196x130 mm
ISBN: 9781847176783

E-Book (ePub): €5.99
Also available as an E-Book (ePub)
ISBN: 9781847178091

There are some things about me you should know. 

1. I always wear my butterfly shell - even when I’m swimming or sleeping

2. I don’t hurt myself any more

3. I believe in ghosts.

I’d better start at the beginning. The beginning of First Year. Here goes …

The story of a strange year and a very special shell.

Maureen White

Maureen White is a playwright, teacher at the Gaiety School of Acting and dramaturg for Rough Magic Theatre Company. This is her first novel for young adults.

An exceptional book. Complex issues including bullying and self-harm are handled with sensitivity and an honesty that is rare and appealing and shows the mastery that Maureen White possesses as an author. The book is superbly written; the dialogue is authentic and wholly credible and makes the main character’s experiences all the more relatable. A thought-provoking story that stays with the reader long after the end of the boo

Literacy Association of Ireland

Maureen White offers a sensitive and astutely balanced view of a year in the life of Marie, a twelve year old newly facing the challenges of secondary school and the battle to establish an independent identity … an uplifting and beautifully placed transitional read between the cosiness of younger fiction and the more adult themes of the Young Adult world. Highly recommended

Bleach House Library

White's short novel covers a lot of sensitive subjects with a light touch and realistic voice. Marie's honesty is endearing and her struggle with the school bully is pitch perfect. This enchanting little drama is a neat stepping stone between the pre-teen dramas of Jacqueline Wilson and the unflinching nature of teen and young adult fiction. Perfect for fans of Sally Nicholls


a beautifully written debut novel … will appeal to late primary school pupils


A coming-of-age story about discovering who you are

Juno Magazine

I found it a very poignant book and felt it captured very well the emotions of being an early teen and feeling vulnerable

Juno Magazine

a lyrically written and thoughtful debut

Irish Independent

The Butterfly Shell is vital reading for girls in sixth year of primary, or first year of secondary school. Maureen White covers difficult topics with a raw yet beautifully light touch

Leabhar Love

this book tackles important issues in a sensitive but still uncomfortable way.  You shouldn’t be able to read a book like this without feeling emotionally invested and I for one felt Marie’s angst.  But it wasn’t done in a whiney-angsty-overdramatic tone, it got the balance just right.  Very impressive and well worth the read.

The blurb had hooked me, I wanted to know more why Marie was struggling so hard that she ended up self-harming, as well as the power behind the butterfly shaped shell. You'll need lots of tissues … I want a sequel so I can find out what happens next!

Nayu’s Reading Corner

As the story evolves it becomes clear that her powers of observation and perception are not limited to mere topographical matters. Her insights into the complexities of young female friendships and rivalries, and of how both are affected by home and school environments, are conveyed with sharpness and precision ... all the more striking for not resorting to the melodrama or sensationalism that we might have expected in a narrative that details a young girl’s experimentation with self-harm … the overall delicacy of her approach matches that of the abalone shell that gives her novel its title

Irish Times

ideal for young teenagers who’ve grown up with Jacqueline Wilson, the cutting poignancy of this tenderly told tale will make readers’ hearts flutter and their souls soar … following Maria’s life through one momentous year, and told in her inimitable voice, this is a powerfully haunting novel about grief, bullying and, ultimately, hope. A remarkable debut from an author YA readers are sure to want more from

told in a first person narrative and in a voice that is direct, honest and completely convincing, it’s a description of grief, and an anatomy of a bullying. Raw and haunting as it is, it also manages to be a story of hope and of new beginnings … This is a very impressive first novel, the writing is spare and effective, and the story will resonate with young readers

there is much promise in this novel to suggest White could develop into a great writer for this age group

almost every synopsis of books I'm reading makes me sigh in frustration. And The Butterfly Shell was just another one to add on the bunch. "Great, cutting, bullying,... Just another YA novel." Except that I was completely wrong about The Butterfly Shell. What I loved about this book is that it has all the typical YA elements (bullying, mental health issues, school,...) and completely turns them on its head. Nothing about this book is typical or as you expect it to be … Clearly I adored this book and can't give it any less than five out of five stars … I was honestly just blown away by it. The writing is enjoyable to read, Marie is a likeable character and the events keep you glued to the book

if ever an author got to the very kernel of how so-called ‘normal’ people become targets for bullies, then Maureen White is that author … a book that demands to be devoured as it spins towards a weird, wonderful ending

Evening Echo

teenage girls being awful to each other is a mainstay of YA fiction. We tend to forget that bullying can be just as harmful at a younger age. I read this book right after reading Blubber by Judy Blume, and The Butterfly Shell holds its own against that classic depiction of bullying and its effects. The Butterfly Shell is quiet and understated, much like its narrator Marie. This is a sweet, strange little book about love, pain, grief and family. It’s well worth a read if you like character-driven stories that deal sensitively with tough issues

a truly gripping and emotional read

Marie's feelings are beautifully and sensitively conveyed; the reader really feels part of the story and sympathises throughout

Teaching Resources: free to view and download

  • Download Teaching Guides: Teaching Guide to the book by Peter Heaney

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