Friday, March 27, 2009

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

My first sample of Caletti—not too shabby. There are definitely noteworthy things in here, and reading it was fun, considering.

Jade’s got an obsession with elephants, rituals, and she also has Panic Disorder, which makes drama difficult to digest. She always has a window open with the live cam at the local zoo filming the elephants—it soothes her. Then, one day, she sees this guy she feels will have some sort of huge impact on her life. Jade relies a lot on instinct like that. (She also questions this in the middle of the book—how trustworthy is instinct, anyway?)

I once read on this writing advice page that you characters should never be too real—they should be real enough that they come alive, but still have a void where the reader can imprint themselves in. I haven’t given this enough thought to figure out if it makes sense to me or not, but as I read about Jade, I couldn’t shake the thought that she was as close as they came to breaking that rule, or theory, or whatever. She’s spectacularly real. She’s got such a defined personality. Like:

“He’s all right. He’s fine,” Dad says, his usual line whenever Oliver gets hurt. It means: Go away. Don’t baby him. Don’t show too much compassion. The other dads do this too. It’s some kind of group hysteria, based on some fatherly fear that says compassion equals homosexuality.

She’s fascinating and funny, and probably the number one reason I kept turning pages. Also, you definitely get the sense she has Panic Disorder—I’ve never known anyone who has it or anything, but I imagine she’s a great definition of the challenges that come along with The Condition.

And, okay, there are quirks. The elephant thing is pretty detailed and researched, and I loved reading random tidbits about their nature. For animal lovers, or zoology-curious folks, this book is absolutely unique in that aspect. Jade also has—as is aforementioned—this thing with rituals and praying to patron saints. It’s not as in-depth as the elephant bit, but it’s there. I gotta be honest and say I’m not sure I see the point in it, but there y’have it.

But, truthfully? This novel isn’t that great. It dragged a lot in many inopportune places, and the plot’s kind of shoddy. As contradictory as it might be, I had to suspend my belief a lot when reading about one of the most realistic characters I’ve come across in ages. There’s a lot of white noise: minor characters that are just…there and the like. I really felt the novel lost its direction midway through, and even then I struggled to find a point. Like, seriously, here’s what happens:

Jade becomes obsessed with seeing this boy—either on the zoo’s live cam or in person. They eventually meet (after a two month break between chapters—I hate fragmented installments like this, but if it dragged under these circumstances, imagine otherwise) and he’s got a kid and not much personality and she’s absolutely enamored by him.

That’s basically your entire trajectory right there. And it takes 288 pages to get it across.

Still, the voice was awesome. Even if I was skimming by the last pages, the voice rocked. C-

Further: This review is pretty spot-on about my thoughts.

Simon & Schuster | 288 pages | February 27th, 2007 | Deb Caletti's site | Elephant stuff on Deb's site | GoodReads

18 comments:

Emily Ruth said...

eh... the thing about the elephants was neat :)

Alea said...

I'm reading Indigo Skye right now! It will be interesting to see where it goes.

Blodeuedd said...

Hm perhaps this one isn't for me then

Amee said...

I love elephants! They're so cute. I want a baby elephant. I also want a baby giraffe and most importantly...a baby llama. The llama is actually not far from possible like the other two. There are lots of llama farms around here! I love driving past them. :P

Emily said...

God I want to read these Deb Caletti books.

Sadako said...

Aww, I wish this was better. I also love elephants, though probably not as much as Jade. And I obsess over things a lot, too.

the epic rat said...

Interesting review - I'm not sure what to make out of it, but I do know that I may just have to read the book to see what you're talking about! :) It would be interesting to see how the character's panic disorder comes across throughout the book

Anonymous said...

What's going on in the comments section? Steph gives the book a "C" and all the sudden everyone is like, Oh, I love elephants! I've got to read this! Huh?

Trisha said...

he’s got a kid and not much personality and she’s absolutely enamored by him.

LOL. I agree with you about the white noise, and the GoodReads person about the slow start. I do think this was better than Indigo Skye, though, which had the same kind of personality-less (though childless) boyfriend, with absolutely no chemistry between him and the narrator. Try Honey, Baby, Sweetheart next.

Michelle said...

I've tried to read a few Deb Caletti books yet I can never get into them. The premise of her novels are always intriguing yet I don't know, I just can never get myself to continue reading them. :/

This was actually the only book by Deb Caletti that I really stuck with mostly because I could really relate to Jade.

Amee said...

Anon: I never said I'd read it. Just that I like elephants.

Also, a C isn't that bad. That's like 3 stars which on most scales means "I liked it." ;)

Alea said...

LOL baby elephants are totally cute... makes me want to watch some videos on you tube.

Ashley said...

I wasn't big on this story, either. I got kind of tired hearing about elephants. But I really enjoyed the relationship between Jade and the boy. And she lived in WA, where I live. lol

Simply_Megan said...

This book is on my bookshelf, so I'll still give it a chance. Read Honey, Baby, Sweetheart - that was really good.

Reader Rabbit said...

I read this one. It's okay...

Honey, Baby Sweetheart was the best, IMO

Meredith said...

I read this book a few months after I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. And I have got to say that Deb Caletti nailed it on the head. There is a certain passage in the beginning of the book that really described what I was going through, so I had my parents and loved ones read it.
I could never quite get the words right when trying to describe what it felt like, but when I read that and showed them, they finally understood.

~Meredith

Leah:) said...

Willy Wonka tells me you have an award waiting for you at my blog!

Leah:)

PS: You are oh so very scrumdidilyumptios!

PPS: great review! Actually, i have read all of Deb Calleti's novels, and this was the only one i even liked! but you hit right on the mark about the voice; it is really strong!

ReadingFool said...

I love Deb Caletti's writing, but I don't always love the totality of the books as much. This is a case in point. It just didn't quite do it for me. But I agree with the others who have suggested you read Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. Mostly, just read Caletti for the richness of her language, her descriptions, and her turns of phrases.

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