Book review: ‘The Nature of Jade’ by Deb Caletti

The Nature of JadeAs part of my New Year’s resolution to enjoy the items I already own, I’ve decided to start reading — really reading — many of the novels I’ve had languishing on my bookshelves for years.

Like this one. Received in our blogger goodie bag back at the Book Blogger Convention in 2010 (!), I’ve been meaning to pick up Deb Caletti’s novel for, oh . . . well, about four years now.

So was it worth the wait?

Eh, sort of. But we’ll get there.

So here we have Jade DeLuna, a bright high school senior who privately battles a panic disorder. Stricken with anxiety for years, Jade finds focusing on the animals at a nearby zoo — the elephants, specifically — takes her out of her own head. She watches the live cam online most evenings, occasionally seeing a young man in a red jacket pop on her screen. He’s cute and uncertain, it seems — just like her.

And he’s got a kid strapped to his back.

A little investigative work — and some “coincidences” in timing — eventually lead her to come face-to-face with Sebastian, a local bookstore owner with a pained past. As Jade begins to volunteer with the elephants and learn more about them (and herself), she must come to terms with whether she’s ready and strong enough to let this kind of love filter into her life.

Deb Caletti’s The Nature of Jade started off strong for me. As someone who also deals with anxiety, I could definitely relate to our heroine’s struggles to live a “normal” life while keeping her feelings quiet. It was easy to empathize, really — almost too easy.

The elephant plot thread? Interesting. Not something I’ve seen before. While volunteering at the zoo, Jade meets lots of interesting folks and, of course, Sebastian — as well as his young son. The story of how the pair came to be on a houseboat with Sebastian’s grandma is interesting . . . but as the storyline progresses, it all seemed to be a little . . . weird.

I don’t know how to explain it. I guess it started with a sense that, while kind, Sebastian wasn’t quite what he seems. I never quite . . . bonded with him. Felt for him, maybe, but wasn’t nearly as enamored with him as Jade was. The whole progression of their relationship seemed odd, especially since the only thing initially pulling him to her was that, after hours, he would find himself gazing at the elephants the same way Jade would. Which she knew because she saw him on the online cam, looking moodily off at the sky. Just like Jade did.

Maybe it doesn’t sound that weird, but it was just . . . strange.

There were parts of The Nature of Jade I really liked, including our lead’s emotional journey from uncertain high schooler to rising college student. She gains confidence, poise and maturity, even as other aspects of her life begin to unravel. I found her parents’ marriage struggles to be realistic and heartbreaking, and I loved the dynamic she shares with Oliver, her little brother.

What I didn’t love? Sebastian’s back story. Without spoilers, I felt the rationale guiding his decisions to be . . . thin. That his grandmother aided him felt a little fishy to me, honestly, and I had a tough time relating to what he was doing. It seemed impulsive, strange and selfish, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the whole thing was going to play out. It was working for now, maybe, but what about five years from now? Or ten? His son would start asking questions. Everything would unravel.

And that distracted me. Not that I found Sebastian to be a truly bad dude or anything, but what was he doing drawing Jade into this whole disaster? True love and blah-ity blah blah, perhaps, but it seemed unfair. And the whole “I thought you were older” justification for their relationship didn’t strike the right chords with me. Or, like, any chords.

I’m being harsher in this review than I felt while reading it, maybe, but reflection creates differing opinions. It was a quick and mostly satisfying story, but not one I found especially memorable. Still, for fans of young adult and those who long to see anxiety disorders represented in YA culture, The Nature of Jade was a decent read.

3.5 out of 5!

Pub: Feb. 27, 2007 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

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