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“Secrets have a shelf life,” Abe. —The Nature of Jade
The Nature of Jade
by Deb Caletti
After moving and starting at a new high school, Jade begins having panic attacks. Jade is trying her best to stay calm and focus on her senior year of high school. One thing that calms her down is watching the elephants at a nearby zoo on her webcam. That’s how she sees Sebastian for the first time.
Even before they meet, Jade feels drawn towards Sebastian, a twenty-year-old who has a baby. When she finally meets him, she quickly falls in love with him. She begins spending her free time with Sebastian, his son, and his grandmother. Even though Sebastian’s life is complicated, getting to know him has helped alleviate Jade’s panic attacks. Then Jade discovers that Sebastian has been hiding a terrible secret. Will their new love be able to survive?
Jade’s work at the zoo gives an interesting aspect to their romance. Jade compares the animal world to the human world and her insights can be interesting. Working with the elephants helps Jade deal with her anxiety disorder. Her inner reflection illuminates her thought process and shows how a random thought can lead her down a spiral of fear. However, too much of the story is told through Jude’s inner dialogue, which makes the story drag. Although many teens may be able to relate to Jude’s anxiety, others will find her constant inner dialogue difficult to wade through.
Jade’s story bounces from her family life, her school life, her zoo life, and finally her relationship with Sebastian. Each aspect of her life seems completely separated. This separation doesn’t allow the author to fully develop the other characters in the story. Even though Jude has come to realize that many of her high school relationships are based on familiarity and habit instead of true connections, the reader is left wondering why they should care.
Jade, her parents, and her boyfriend all have destructive secrets. Jade comes to realize that lives are complicated and messy. She discovers that not all actions can be labeled as good or bad. Sebastian and his grandmother both wonder if they are doing the right thing when they hide their whereabouts, which allows the reader to reflect on what they would do in a similar situation. As Jade grows, she learns that people cannot be seen as just a stereotype, because all people are more complicated than that.
Readers who want to look at the complicated workings of the inner mind will enjoy The Nature of Jade. However, the majority of readers may struggle due to the lack of character development, absence of action, and slow pacing of the story.
- Jade’s friend has become boy crazy. Jade thinks, “God, sorry if this is crude, but she had begun to remind me of those baboons that flaunt their red butts around when they’re in heat.”
- Jade’s friend thinks a boy has “the sweetest ass.”
- Michael tells his friends, “Some of us want to go to med school and become doctors and not just meet some guy and have sex.” His friend replies, “Some of us want to have a social life. You’ve been more intimate with your laptop than an actual female.”
- Jade thinks that fathers don’t show compassion when their kids are hurt because of a fear that “compassion equals homosexuality.”
- Someone teases a boy saying he might be gay.
- When Sebastian found out his girlfriend was pregnant, he would have considered other options, but she hid the pregnancy from him.
- A girl doesn’t think her friend can have fun at a Christian school. She wants to go to a college that has “Guy fun. Party fun. Drinking fun.
- Jade and Sebastian kiss several times. The first time they kiss “for a while, not long enough. His mouth is chili-warm. . . He puts his hand behind my neck, pulls me to him and kisses my forehead.”
- Jade and Sebastian have sex. “Sabastian strokes my hair. We start to kiss. We kiss for a long while. His hands are gentle. I guess that’s the only thing that is necessary to know about Sebastian and me on that hard dock, the blanket around us. He is careful, so very careful with me.”
- While in the high school library, someone sees Jade’s mother kiss the librarian. The girl tells Jade, “Someone had their tongue down someone’s throat, is what I heard.” When Jade confronts her mother, she doesn’t deny it.
- During a football game, Jade’s brother is hurt. He tells Jade, “Number forty-six. Jeez, he just bashed his shoulder into my chest, and when I was on the ground, he steps on my leg with his cleat.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Michael went to a party that had “more booze than a liquor store convention.” While there he “had half a beer and I could barely talk.”
- Profanity is used often when the teens talk. Profanity includes ass, bastard, bitch, crappy, damn, goddamn, fuck, and shit.
- Jesus, God, oh my God, and for God’s sake are frequently used as exclamations.
- When Jade hears baboons scream, it frightens her. When her dad shows up, he says, “God, Jade. Zoo animals! Baboons, for Christ sake.”
- Jade tells her counselor that she feels “like shit.”
- Jade tells her brother that the guy that tackled him in football is a “bastard. The minute he gets off the field I’m going to kick him in the balls.”
- Jade’s friend Jenna has begun going to church. Jenna gets upset when some of her friends “take the Lord’s name in vain.”
- A couple of Jade’s friends think it would be fun to be the Pope for a day.
- While watching the webcam, Jade sees Sebastian praying.
- Jade lights candles to different patron saints and prays to them. “There’s a saint for everything . . . They got these cool candles for each different one, a column of tall glass with a picture of the saint on the front, and a matching prayer on the back, one in English and one in Spanish.” Jade says several of the prayers.