Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: The Jade Notebook by Laura Resau

After 17 countries in 17 years, Zeeta is sure she's finally found her perfect paradise - home.  She has everything she wants in the beach town of Mazunte, Mexico - her eclectic free-spirited mom, Layla, sandy afternoon naps in the hammock and moonlight walks and kisses on the beach with her one true love, Wendell, the explosion of color that is an ocean sunset on the cliffs of Punta Cometa, and a ton of interesting people from all over the world coming and going from the cabanas she and Layla are managing.  The only thing that's missing is her father, the mysterious J.C., who Zeeta briefly found and lost again last year in France.

Still, Zeeta tells herself her dad has to be nearby - after all, Mazunte has to be his home town, with its population of endangered leatherback sea turtles and the comet-shaped point he spoke of in France, and all the stories people tell about a boy nicknamed La Tortuga (Spanish for tutle) who left home for Europe 18 years ago after being (falsely?) accused of poaching sea turtle eggs.  In fact, Zeeta is pretty sure that the teens she and Wendell play sunset beach volleyball with every evening are probably her cousins.  She knows if she's patient and just keeps looking, eventually J.C. will come home and her life will be perfect.

But even paradise has its dark side.  There's the mysterious, seriously creepy Forbidden Territory - a patch of jungle surrounded by a tall fence between the cabanas and Punta Cometa with signs warning that trespassers will be cursed, devoured, and eliminated.  The locals claim that a bruja, a witch, lives there - and with the terrifying, loud roaring noises and glowing eyes that Zeeta has seen there at night, she believes it.  There is also a huge problem with poachers - and even though Zeeta and Wendell have witnessed strange men in trucks digging up the leatherbacks' eggs, the local police and Wendell's boss at the Turtle Center seem strangely inept and even reluctant to deal with the problem.  Where are the volunteers that are supposed to be guarding the eggs?  Why does Wendell's boss keep telling him not to get involved?  And why does everyone keep telling Zeeta and Wendell to tengan cuidado, be careful?

If you love to travel or read about other places in the world, the Notebook series is for you!  With a touch of magical realism, author Laura Resau brings to vivid life the rich culture, the tapestry of local stories and customs, the heat of the jungle and the explosion of colorful plant life, and the spicy deliciousness of the local cuisine (reader beware - you'll be seriously craving mole and flan after reading this!), you'll want to pour yourself a glass of agua de horchata and sink into a hammock on a lazy summer afternoon, or maybe go check out a coral reef in some crystal blue water on your next vacation.  After you've finished reading about Zeeta's adventures in Mexico, go back and check out her year in Ecuador in The Indigo Notebook and her year in the south of France in the The Ruby Notebook!

(Now in the middle of Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - you thought Leck made your skin crawl in Graceling and Fire?  He just keeps getting creepier...)

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