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 is a writer in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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