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The Thing About Jellyfish

Review

The Thing About Jellyfish

Ali Benjamin’s coming-of-age story THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH is reminiscent of the creature in its title --- transparent, haunting, yet absolutely wonderful.

When seventh-grader Suzy Swanson’s best friend Franny Jackson unexpectedly dies, she channels her grief and confusion surrounding Franny’s death --- and the girls’ awful final moment together --- into silence, refusing to accept that “sometimes things just happen.” Suzy knows there’s a scientific answer behind Franny’s death, and she discovers that answer on a school trip to the aquarium: she’s convinced Franny passed because of a rare jellyfish sting. Suzy begins devising a plan to prove what really happened to everyone, including herself.

Ali Benjamin’s coming-of-age story THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH is reminiscent of the creature in its title --- transparent, haunting, yet absolutely wonderful.

To put it simply, THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH is an amazing novel that should appeal to readers way beyond its intended middle school audience. Benjamin’s prose is unforgettably heartfelt as she guides her readers through the uncomfortable story of a friendship crumbled by the hardships of middle school. Broken into seven parts that reflect the scientific method, Suzy gives her hypothesis, shares the background of her friendship with Franny and writes a list of procedures to prove that her best friend died of a jellyfish sting. THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH never becomes too technical or overbearing, and instead perfectly uses the structure to illustrate Suzy’s sadness, determination, intelligence and originality.

Benjamin beautifully employs jellyfish as a metaphor for Suzy’s oddball personality and the fact that she feels unwanted. At one point in the story, Suzy becomes fascinated with a jellyfish expert named Jamie Seymour and plans to meet him by flying to Australia. Suzy repeatedly writes in her journal that she wants to meet Jamie to confirm her findings, but, in some very genuine moments, readers realize that Suzy is heading to Australia to find compassion from a stranger who loves an animal that is regarded as a weird, lonely outcast.

 THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH is an amazing debut from an author capable of writing in a genuine and smart voice. It entertains as much as it teaches an important lesson, and it is a must-read for everyone, awkward children and blossomed adults alike.

Reviewed by George Leonidou on September 2, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish
by Ali Benjamin

  • Publication Date: April 4, 2017
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316380849
  • ISBN-13: 9780316380843