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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction: Get out the hankerchiefs

Last Kiss of the Butterfly by Jill Hucklesby
Orchard Books - Pages: 288
ISBN 978 – 1 – 84616 – 343 - 2
Monique Wintle

Jaz is a 13 year old girl who is an incredibly determined young lady, whether it is finding cures for her mother’s cancer, or learning her new moves for tae kwon do. When her mother became ill Jaz takes it upon herself to look after her. Making sure she takes her pills, organizing her exercise regime, or phoning specialist doctors from all over the world to ask for their advice.

If you are looking for a feel good story this is not the book for you, it will have you reaching for the tissues on several occasions.

Not only does Jaz have to face the problems that all teenagers face like first love, fashion and friends, but she also has to deal with her mother’s illness causing her to grow up very quickly.

When Jaz gets the shocking news that she will not be spending the summer in London with her friends the "Urban Chicks" she is devastated, she is to spend the whole summer in her Grandfather’s old house in the marshes in the middle of nowhere, just her and her mum, any teenagers worst nightmare. While they are away Jaz learns more about her mum and starts to see her as not only a mother but a friend as well. The relationship between them both is heart warming, and makes the outcome even harder to take. Although Jaz becomes closer to her mum throughout the summer she still wishes to be back in London with her friends, her only link to the outside world, and the only thing that keeps her from going mad from being surrounded by so may frogs is the phone calls and texts from her best friend Bella.

The book does not set up any false hopes as it starts with Jaz and her dad attending the funeral of her mother, so you are aware from the start what is in stall for the reader. I can not decide whether this makes it easier when the inevitable happens, or just builds up the agony while reading the book. Throughout the conversations and tender interactions between Jaz and her mother you can’t help but have the nagging knowledge that this woman will die. I found myself getting frustrated with Jaz when she was wishing she was back in London with her friends, rather than be on a bike ride with her mum in the marshes.

Although, it is expected when the cancer returns I still found it saddening, almost wishing that the first chapter was a clever ploy by the author to surprise us with good news at the end, but this was not the case. If it wasn’t for Ethan, a boy she comes across in the marshes, I don’t think she would be able to get through the news and the death of her mother.
Overall, I found the book heartwarming when reading the relationships between the family and how they act as a unit, but like I have said before this book is a real tearjerker especially near the end so, be warned to have those tissues at the ready.

© Monique Wintle October 2008

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