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The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

Posted in further reading, videos, ya lit with tags , on April 2, 2011 by Anita

Humans may watch animals, but animals also watch humans. The Australian Lyrebird not only observes humans, but from its forest perch, imitates them, as well. It’s been known to make the sound of trains, horns, motors, alarms, and even chainsaws…
— Dr. Jerome R. Clade, The Fundamentals of Animal Behavior

Jade DeLuna is so comforted by the elephants she watches on the zoo’s webcam that she leaves the cam on in her room all the time. The first time the boy in the red jacket visits the elephants, she’s intrigued. Not only is he cute, but the baby he carries on his back certainly makes him different from the other guys she knows.

Despite – or because of – suffering from panic disorder, Jade is looking to take control of her life, and meeting the boy in the red jacket seems like a good place to start. Instead, however, she ends up face-to-face with Chai and baby Hansa, Bamboo, Tombi, Flora and Onyx – the elephant residents of Seattle’s zoo. Working with the animals proves to be even more therapeutic than watching them, and when the boy in the red jacket finally appears again, Jade is not just ready to meet him, but ready to fall in love.

Jade and Sebastian [the boy in the red jacket] are characters you’ll want to get to know, but the elephants are the stars of the book, and the element that takes Deb Caletti‘s The Nature of Jade beyond your typical teen love story.

If the elephants intrigue you as much as they did me [like Jade, I live just blocks from a zoo – a little one with no elepants & no webcams, though], you’ll find you can watch real elephants on the live 24 hour elephant web cam at the San Diego Zoo’s web site.

If elephants aren’t your thing, use the Live Cams & Videos menu at the top of that page to see the other annimals.  If you’re as lucky as Jade, you might meet the man of your dreams while watching the Panda cam.

Moving on from the relationship between animals and humans to human relationships, Jade’s eventual involvement with Sebastian, a single dad, creates a love story unusual in teen literature. Most YA books that contain single teen dads are the story of their struggles to raise their babies – Margaret Bechard’s Hanging on to Max, for example, or the Printz Award winning First Part Last by Angela Johnson. In The Nature of Jade, Jade has to be willing to risk loving not just Sebastian, but his son Bo as well. And she has to be willing to forgive Sebastian for the things a father will do to keep his son.

Additional Resources

Animal Books

(don’t miss Colleen Mondor’s review of these books )

Check here to find out more about other books by Deb Caletti.

See an interview with Deb on Book Lust with Nancy Pearl

“Smart, engaging (and occasionally awkward) first-person narration, genuinely complex relationships and strong secondary characters…combine to make this a sure hit for fans of Sarah Dessen….All in all, a pleasure.” Kirkus Reviews“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.” Children’s Literature”Jade’s first-person voice seems overly sophisticated, and her story is sometimes needlessly complex….On the other hand, the author does a fine job of developing [her] characters…describing their emotions deeply as well as authentically. The love story is also quite captivating.” Booklist

“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.” KLIATT


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