The See-Through Leopard by Sibel Hodge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When grief & loss collide with teen angst & overwhelming guilt, sometimes it takes a helpless little bundle of mewling fur to convince someone to step onto the grueling path toward ultimate healing.
“Everyone has scars. Whether they’re on the outside or inside, everyone’s got them.” So observes Zach, the wise-beyond-his-years mentor and secret love interest of Jazz Hooper. At this point in the story, Jazz is far from certain that she’s ready to believe him.
Still reeling from the accidental death of her mother quite some time earlier, an accident for which she unswervingly blames herself, her grief is compounded by the fact that the accident left her permanently disfigured. Abandoned by her friends, who now revile her with taunts like “freak” and “weirdo,” she has retreated from the cruelty of the world into which she was born. And if the inability to bear looking at her reflection in a mirror isn’t bad enough, her very name—her mother’s favorite music genre—provides a constant reminder of everything precious that she has lost.
Her veterinarian father also struggles with his grief while ineffectually watching his daughter sink further into the throes of hers. His solution is to relocate his decimated family from England to Kenya, where he and his late wife had worked prior to Jazz’s birth. Naturally afraid of the unknown, and possessing zero interest in animals, Jazz drags her feet about the move. Being a minor gives her no choice in the matter.
Jazz’s new life in Kenya begins to play out just as disastrously as her post-accident life in England had become... until she is confronted with the pitiful spectacle of a starving young leopard cub whose mother had been killed by poachers. Fortunately for all concerned, Jazz chooses to help the cub. Thus begins a nearly two-year process as Jazz, with Zach’s invaluable help, becomes “mama leopard” to Asha, teaching her all the skills Asha will need to survive as an adult back in the wild.
I chose to review this book based on its cover blurb, and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed.
There were some elements to the book for which, collectively, I knocked one point off its rating. Several technical errors slipped by the copyeditor (and I’m not talking about the differences between American English & British English), the storyline was fairly predictable, the author resorted to causing romantic conflict between Jazz and Zach by failing to have them simply talk to each other, and Jazz’s father made at least two questionable parenting decisions: he didn't seek professional grief counseling for Jazz right after the accident, and he allowed his underage and highly fragile daughter to be interviewed alone by a reporter whose agenda proved to be less than honorable.
All in all, however, I found The See-Through Leopard to be a quick and engaging read, and I highly recommend it to any parent or teen coping with loss, or who is interested in learning more about the plight of animals in Africa and across our entire planet.
I received a free copy of this ebook in exchange for this review.
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