Butterflies & Characters

Liz Hsu

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Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Fifteen-year-old Rayanne Ericson has been having strange health problems: swollen hands, aching knees, and a rash across her face that looks like a butterfly. When she visits her dad in Ann Arbor at the end of summer, she’s admitted to the University of Michigan with a diagnosis of lupus, a brand-new word to her. Although she lives with her mom in Coastal Georgia, she agrees to stay with her dad for a semester. She’ll have access to better healthcare, and she doesn’t want to give up an opportunity to live with the dad she barely knows.

Geeky, rising senior Charles Wong is a competitive pianist and robotics club champion who’s never had a girlfriend. He’s known Ray her whole life—his mom and her dad are best friends, and seeing her so sick is frightening. The new sadness to her penetrating blue eyes pulls Charles to Ray in the weeks before school in attempts to draw out her disarming smile.

There is a growing appeal to Charles, who can generate laughter on even Ray’s worst days—days she can no longer run or draw, her two favorite things, because her joints are too inflamed. Yet Charles is pegged to be this year’s valedictorian and is striving to get into Caltech, one of the most competitive schools in the country. Ray starts to wonder, even if her feelings are reciprocated, if she’ll ever be anything but a distraction. As she pushes back her plans to return home, she must learn to manage her unpredictable illness as their growing attraction becomes impossible to ignore.