Some books tell a great, entertaining story.
Some books inform and educate, even if they are presented as fiction.
Some books tap into your emotions and make you feel.
The See-Through Leopard does it all.
At the age of 15, self-absorbed Jazz Hooper forgets a book for school and makes her mom go back home to get it. In a hurry, her mom is more focused on Jazz’s lack of seatbelt than the road and runs a red light. She’s struck by a lorry and killed.
Jazz is left disfigured by scars and depressed. She despises herself and struggles with the rejection she experiences from former friends who mock her appearance mercilessly at school.
When the book starts Jazz is 16 and just finishing up school. She learns her dad has decided to go back to Kenya, where Jazz was conceived, and is furious that he is forcing her to go with him. Her life, until the accident, had been about clothes and makeup and boys; her parents’ interest in animals had never been a priority to her.
She was miserable in England but isn’t any happier in Kenya at first. When she’s ridiculed by guests at the lodge on the reserve she and her dad are working at she runs off, despite the warnings to not wander on her own. An orphaned leopard cub finds her and ultimately, Jazz convinces her dad and 18-year-old Zach to let her try to raise the cub and return it to the wild. In order for them to agree she had to commit herself to seeing it through and she has to work with Zach and let him make a documentary.
Jazz is able to put aside her fear of being filmed for the sake of Asha, the leopard cub. As she works with Zach they form a close bond but she is afraid to take the chance of risking his friendship by sharing how she feels.
Poachers and people who trade in wildlife for circuses threaten Asha and other animals, and the more Jazz learns and sees, the less she mourns the dreams she had that died along with her mom. But will she have the courage to embrace the chances she has for a happy future?
This is a really inspiring story. When I started it, my initial thought was, “Crap. I can’t read this. I’m going to ugly cry.” And I cried a lot. The author doesn’t pull punches about issues facing wildlife, or about grief, but Jazz’s journey from a self-absorbed teen to a depressed girl to a young woman is inspiring and the strong emotional connection with the character is one of the reasons that this book will be one I remember for years to come. A great YA/coming-of-age story with the bonus of providing a lot of information about endangered species and the threats wildlife face from poachers today.