My Rating: 4 stars
Date Read: June 5, 2015
Source: Purchased ebook
Publication Date: February 27, 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance
When Jade's grandmother died, she developed a panic disorder - not because they were especially close, but because Jade realized then that people could die. This left her incredibly anxious and afraid to take risks.
After her family moved to the city, Jade began visiting the zoo near her house. She became attached to the elephants, finding them calming to watch, and then started to watch them at home, from a webcam the zoo set up. This is where she first sees the boy. He wears a red jacket, holds a baby, and Jade knows in her gut that he will become part of her life.
I took so long to pick up this book. Back in 2013 - two years ago! - I read the beginning chapters through an excerpt that iBooks provided, and immediately wanted the rest of the book. I must not have had the money on my account at the time, because I didn't buy it. And then I went forever thinking about this book, but not picking it up. Even once I had the full thing, right there to read on my tablet, I didn't get around to it.
I'm a little regretful of that, because not only was it a super quick read, but it was so good. I always hesitate to pick up a book about mental illness, but I think Jade's anxiety was handled well here. Stories like this are so important.
That said, I do think Jade's coping with her anxiety could have been handled better. Despite all Jade does for herself - volunteering with the elephants in the zoo, sending applications to colleges that aren't five minutes away, falling in love - only one of these was given credit for making her less anxious. While her relationship with Sebastian was super important, love is not a treatment for mental illness. It was only one of the things she did to face her fears and to put herself out there, so I kind of hated that Jade mentioned only that when thinking about how much better she felt. I don't feel she was able to 'forget' to be afraid because of their relationship, but because she began to live her life fully and didn't have so much alone time with her thoughts.
Despite my slight problems where it intertwined with Jade's anxiety, though, I really enjoyed the romance. I admit I had my doubts at first - Sebastian had a child, Jade was pretty immature, and there were a couple of secrets kept that left me wondering if they could actually work things out. However, I really adored Sebastian and his son, Bo. And Jade grew so much through the book,
Another great aspect was that so much of Jade's growth involved her family. I love books that focus on family relationships, and I don't read enough of them. (They can be hard to find!) Both Sebastian and Jade had interesting families and I was glad they were included as pretty consistent characters, rather than only being mentioned once or twice. Jade's understanding of her parents grew as she did, and that was wonderful to see. I was rooting for her in every way - not only for her and Sebastian, but for her to repair her relationship with her mother, and to help her little brother through his own problems.
Lastly, the animals in this book were actual characters. Family interactions constantly included the dog - from his reaction when everyone was outside without him, to his sadness with the rest of the family when they're hurting, to Jade simply taking him for a walk in hopes of running into 'the boy in the red jacket.' The elephants also had their own personalities and problems to deal with, and I just really liked this. The little elephant facts that began each chapter were great, too!
Overall, this is a book I waited way too long to read. I had very few issues with it, and the positive aspects far outweighed anything negative. It was such a beautiful story.