The Nature of Jade: Reviews « Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti

The Nature of Jade: Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly
When 17-year-old Jade sees a curly-haired boy on a zoo Web camera—a boy with a baby on his back—she gets that “little feeling of knowing, this fuzzy, gnawing sense that someone will become a major something in your life.” After she volunteers to work with the elephants, she meets and falls in love with Sebastian, and is quickly drawn into his complicated life—including his dangerous secret. Jade’s life has its own complexities, such as a “missing in action” father, and a mother who is overly involved in Jade’s high school. Caletti’s (Wild Roses) multilayered novel interweaves many plot points; the fascinating anecdotes about animal behavior that begin each chapter ground the story, as does the guidance of Jade’s gentle counselor. Some characters do not fully come alive, such as the brokenhearted elephant keeper Damian, who mourns the pachyderm he left behind in India. (Readers will likely take to Damian regardless, and appreciate his part in teaching Jade that she is like her name, “One of the strongest materials. Stronger than steel.”) The author offers a rather unflinching look at realistically complicated lives; readers will root for Jade as she begins to learn that she can’t “put things into separate compartments: right, wrong, good, bad”—especially when it comes to the people she loves. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Children’s Literature
On the day her parents leave for a second honeymoon in Hawaii, Jade thinks she’s going to die—her heart pounds painfully in her chest and she fights for breath—just before the macaroni and cheese dinner becomes history. Three years later, a high school senior, Jade is still taking medication for her anxiety/panic attacks, still seeing a psychologist, has learned some strategies to cope, but is still scared of lots of things, like going away to college. It calms her to watch the elephants on the zoo cam, where one day she sees the boy in the red coat with the baby in his backpack and she is hooked. Jade’s own family is slowly coming apart as she becomes part of two new families—the elephant family at the zoo where she now volunteers, and the red-jacket boy’s, which has to be kept a secret. This story of a young woman growing up, falling in love (with a boy, a baby, the elephants), and learning to renegotiate all the important relationships in her life is told with such heart and in such resonant language that the reader wants to meet and know these characters in real life. Jade struggles with some of the same troubling issues faced by other young adults, including peer pressure, parental demands, and her own fear and uncertainty about making the right decisions. Everything about this book is well done—character development, setting, pacing of the story, writing style—Caletti is a master of the art.

Author of a National Book Award finalist (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart), Deb Caletti unites the unique and the commonplace in her latest coming-of-age novel. Jade DeLuna struggles to navigate the changing landscape of her relationships with her family and friends during her senior year of high school, while also dealing with panic disorder. This debilitating condition causes her to fear anything new and question her own instincts about what is good for her, and what is dangerous. To calm herself, she visits the zoo and becomes so fascinated by the elephants—and so disgusted with the smallness of her own life—she becomes a volunteer at the elephant house. Thus begins Jade’s education in animal behavior, and she gradually forms bonds with both the elephants and the people who work at the zoo. When she meets Sebastian, a young father raising his son alone, Jade’s heart wars with her head as she learns how complicated life can be in spite of her caution. With intelligent yet emotion-drenched prose, Caletti expertly weaves a story of humor and pathos featuring a cast of unforgettable, multi-faceted human and animal characters. Along the way, she offers gentle lessons in compassion, growth, and change, and the power of love in its many forms.

Romantic Times Book Club Magazine (Top Pick)
Once again, Caletti proves to be one of the best writers in her genre with a book full of heart, depth, great twists, and fully realized, soulful and flawed characters. Her top-notch writing rivals that of YA master Sarah Dessen.

Summary: High school senior Jade has a panic disorder that makes her feel like she can’t breathe and she might die. Once she takes control of this, other things fall into place, like meeting the boy in the red jacket. Meanwhile, trouble with her mother – who embarrassingly clings to the high school rituals Jade shuns – climaxes with the ultimate embarrassment for them both.

KLIATT (Starred Review)
Caletti, author of carefully written YA novels such as Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, a finalist for the National Book Award, gives us an unusual story about a brilliant teenager named Jade, a senior in high school. Part of the nature of Jade is that she suffers from debilitating panic attacks, helped by medication, but baffling and confusing. One of her coping mechanisms is to focus on the web cam coverage of the elephant house at the local zoo, keeping watch over the marvelous creatures. Eventually she volunteers at the zoo and bonds with the elephant keeper, Damian Rama. As Jade monitors the web cam from her own room and also spends time with the elephants at the zoo, she notices that a young man with a small child frequently comes to observe the elephants. Eventually Jade meets Sebastian and his little son and their friendship turns into a love affair. But, Sebastian is hiding a secret that will change their plans for the future, and the secret raises ethical considerations that are difficult to resolve. To meet these challenges, Jade needs to overcome her own fears and allow herself to take some risks. In telling about Jade and Sebastian, Caletti pushes her readers to consider these same moral choices, and perhaps to realize that sometimes there are no correct answers in life. In and around the story about humans is the story of the elephants, especially Jum, a young elephant who was left behind in Asia by Damian Rama, the elephant keeper, who says to Jade, “When you raise an animal, you love it like your own child. I know her thoughts, her needs. She wonders where I am, and I can’t bear it.” So Damian, like Sebastian, leaves Jade to care for a small creature he loves. But Damianreassures her, “You are not vulnerable any more…you are living up to your name.” And Damian Rama is right: Jade is stronger, and when spring comes in a new year, she can finally conquer her own fear of change.

Panic attacks are what Jade DeLuna knows best, although medication and an understanding therapist have recently helped her to cope more successfully. Because she has always found elephants relaxing, she spends her more anxious moments gazing at the elephants at the local zoo on their Web cam. She observes a young man, noting that he visits often, sometimes with a toddler in a backpack and often late at night, without him. Jade feels that she needs to meet him, so she decides to volunteer at the zoo in the elephant enclosure. She is an immediate success with both the elephant trainer and the elephants because of her gentle nature, and she meets Sebastian and Bo, the boy and the toddler. Soon Jade learns that Sebastian’s life is very complicated, maybe too complicated for someone trying to overcome anxiety disorder. But as Jade discovers, sometimes love takes a person in directions one might never have anticipated. Caletti masterfully creates her character and setting with highly crafted, straight-to-the heart prose. Jade, unsure of herself and her feelings except when she is interacting with the elephants, is someone whom teen readers will recognize. This interaction anchors the book and Jade’s increasing confidence and comfort with the world. Sensitive readers will deeply connect with Sebastian’s love for his son, Jade’s love for the elephants, and the loss of love that her parents are experiencing. Caletti is not for every reader, but the right readers will feel every word in this book.

The jade of the title is a high school senior, struggling with anxiety disorder and with irritation at her static life. She breaks her routine by volunteering at the zoo’s elephant compound, drawn at first by a young man she’s seen watching the creatures; soon she’s enamored of both the elephants and the young man, Sebastian. Sebastian has a toddler, Bi, from a previous relationship; though he initially tells Jade that Bo’s mother has died, he eventually reveals that he’s actually in hiding from her and her parents, who are seeking custody of the child. In Caletti’s careful hands, this isn’t just a romance; it’s also a playing out of Jade’s slow-coming independence, and the romance is a factor affecting her rich and believable family dynamics.

Readers will immediately sympathize with Jade’s frustration with her mother, who as dance chaperone and eager school volunteer is trying to have the high school experience she wishes her daughter would have, and with Jade’s irritation with her father, who’s demanding and emotionally distant. Her relationship with Sebastian credibly becomes her way of bridging the gap to adulthood and the issue on which she finally separates from her parents; this means that her mother’s decision, upon discovering the truth, to notify Bo’s mother’s family about Bo’s whereabouts is a metaphoric grab for her daughter even as it’s an understandable action to take. Smooth, perceptive writing adds polish to an already compelling story that’s sure to draw teens contemplating their own leaps into independence.

This book wraps intimate storytelling, wit, and wisdom around tumultuous, dynamic characters. When I closed the book, I wanted more stories of elephants and houseboats and grandmothers who rock, of human hearts, breathless moments, and taking risks.”
-Amy Carlson

It’s all happening at the zoo

Jade has panic attacks. Even though she’s AP English/Calculus smart, and pictures the desert or counts syllables on her fingers to calm her heartbeat, sometimes she still can’t stop her throat from constricting or get over the terrible feeling that she is in a box she cannot get out of. One of the things that helps to calm her is to watch the elephants on the webcam of her local zoo.

That’s where she first sees Sebastian. And his child. He looks around her age—17—so could that really be his kid? The sight of him becomes something she craves, so it’s nice that he keeps a regular schedule. But she wonders why he sometimes comes there at night after the zoo is closed, by himself. What worries him so?

When she starts volunteering at the zoo, she thinks it will be good for her college applications, and she might even run into Sebastian sometime. It turns out to be the perfect plan, in so many ways. And Sebastian turns out to be the perfect guy—except for the nagging doubts that she can’t shake. Still, she finds herself loving everything about him, his grandmother Tess and his little boy Bo.

When Jade finds out the truth, it is even more complicated than she could have guessed. Should she tell her mother? As she makes that decision, the fabric of her own family starts to unravel. Suddenly, her decision forces Sebastian out of her reach, just like he was on the webcam. What is really right? What needs to stay the same, and what is OK even if it changes?

Deb Caletti, whose previous books include The Queen of Everything, National Book Award finalist Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, and Wild Roses, has written a touching portrait of one girl’s passage into womanhood. This vivid story, with funny, smart Jade who worries about imaginary problems while real ones are much more likely, is sure to please. With real insight into the concerns of teens, The Nature of Jade offers readers a sort of literary webcam for observing one of Caletti’s most intriguing characters.
-Linda White

The Nature of Jade
For Jade, prone to panic attacks that consume her, watching the elephant cam from the nearby zoo offers peace. But when she becomes smitten with a boy she sees also watching the elephants, Jade finds herself shaken out of her complacent and often narrow life. As she cleans elephant feet and learns valuable lessons from the head keeper about love and family, Jade continues watching for the boy. When she meets him, a lovely romance ensue – until Sebastian’s past (and the mother of his young son) comes forward to complicate things. Suddenly, Jade must take control of herself and make some difficult decisions. Smart, engaging (and occasionally awkward) first person narration, genuinely complex relationships and strong secondary characters (Sebastian’s activist grandmother; Jade’s falling-apart parents) combine to make this a sure hit for fans of Sarah Dessen. The naturalist element in the zoo scenes is an added and original bonus. All in all, a pleasure.

The Nature of Jade
Jade doesn’t know yet that she wants something more out of life – and that she is about to meet someone that will change her life.

Good student Jade is an overachiever who has developed panic disorder. Sometimes, the medicine she takes makes her antsy at night, so she’s taken to watching the online elephant cam from her local zoo. One night, the camera shows her a young boy in a red jacket with a baby boy, and she is inexplicably drawn to them.

Throughout the course of her senior year, Jade finds herself feeling more and more out-of-place with her friends as they discuss their future plans. She’s ready for her life to change, but she’s not sure how. When she gets a job at the zoo and befriends the elephants and their caretakers, things seem right again.

Then she meets the boy in the red jacket face-to-face. As their relationship grows, secrets are revealed on both sides, and it is that relationship which ultimately gives her the strength to make some extremely difficult choices.

I have never worked with elephants. I never knew a Sebastian. I (thankfully) haven’t suffered from panic attacks. But there was something about Jade that mirrored something in me, and that really made me connect with the character.

I think I have a new favorite Deb Caletti novel.

I shared the following with Deb, and now I will share it with all of you: I enjoyed the story and the writing so much that I purposely slowed my reading speed down to take it all in. I wanted this book to last.
-Allie Costa

TeenReads Too
Since being diagnosed with Panic Disorder, Jade DeLuna does not know how to cope with the shortness of breath and dizzy feelings, but could this all change when she meets the boy in the red jacket?

Jade,18, is in her senior year of high school when she is diagnosed. She knows nothing good can come out of it and she thinks not even the support of her family can help her through. Not only that, but her other family members have problems of their own.

Like her little brother, Oliver, who loves reading THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA books, but their dad has other plans for him. Dad wants Oliver to love sports, but even though Oliver has tried many times with soccer, baseball, and football, he can’t seem to enjoy them. Jade and Oliver both notice their parents’ marriage is falling apart, with mom always at PTA meetings and dad locking himself downstairs with his wooden city sculptures.

With all of this, Jade doesn’t feel relaxed a bit.

Soon Jade finds an escape from everything, and that escape is the elephants. Not only do the elephants calm her down, they make her feel important and not so tied up in her schoolwork. Jade puts a video cam on the local zoo’s elephants cage so she can have the elephants anytime she wants on her computer screen — but one night she notices on the live video a boy in a red jacket with a toddler. Jade is so intrigued by the young man and the toddler that she volunteers at the zoo’s elephant park. One day, while leaving the zoo, she finally meets the young man. The moment he speaks, Jade knows she likes him and she knows she wants to see him again.

Will I ever see the mysterious young man and the toddler again?

If I do, will it develop into a relationship?

And is the toddler his kid?

These are all questions that Jade asks herself, and if you read this book you will find the interesting answers.

THE NATURE OF JADE by Deb Caletti is a great novel that keeps you attached and interested until the end. Ms. Caletti definitely knows how to write an engaging life story and I totally recommend this book to anyone who loves reading. I give it 5 stars!!!

School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Jade DeLuna suffers from panic attacks broughton by realizations of her own mortality. In addition to therapy and prescribed medication, she finds relief from her condition by taking care of elephants at a local zoo in Seattle. When she meets Sebastian, a handsome boy with a 15-month-old son, she falls in love with him and becomes immersed in his world. In addition to dealing with her anxiety and keeping her relationship with Sebastian secret, Jade must also come to terms with her parents’ deteriorating marriage, her friends drifting apart, and an A.P.-heavy course load. Told from her perspective, the novel contains intense passages about loneliness, death, and human relationships intercut with seemingly factual information about the physical and emotional lives of elephants. Frequent remarks about the similarities between humans and animals often feel redundant, and the plot is more entertaining than Jade’s animal anecdotes. Despite this, the novel takes on an interesting perspective that is not often shown in books–that teen parents can form meaningful and loving relationships with their peers.
–Marie C. Hansen, New York Public Library
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Upon learning that the substance for which she was named is one of the strongest materials (“stronger than steel”), Jade replies, “I don’t feel strong.” And for good reason: the 18-year-old suffers from panic attacks. Partly to pursue a calming activity and partly to meet the cute boy she has observed on the Seattle’s zoo’s Webcam, Jade volunteers at the zoo and begins work at the elephant house. In due course, she meets the boy, Sebastian, and they fall in love. But there are problems: Sebastian is a single father, and he has a secret that threatens to destroy Jade’s hopes and dreams. Jade’s first-person voice seems overly sophisticated, and her story is sometimes needlessly complex–especially when Caletti tries too hard to equate human and animal behavior. On the other hand, the author does a fine job of developing both principal and supporting characters (even the elephants are nicely differentiated), describing their emotions deeply as well as authentically. The love story is also quite captivating.
-Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved