On the surface, The Thing About Jellyfish is a middle-grade book about a girl named Suzy struggling with the death of a former best friend. But when you look closer, you see a girl struggling with much more than that - the divorce of her parents, growing up, not having anyone to talk to, feeling like a pariah even in her own home - and now the guilt of feeling like she failed her friend. As Suzy nears adolescence, she begins to realize how uncertain the world is, and the uncertainty surrounding her best friend Franny's death is no exception. Unsatisfied with the explanation that "sometimes things just happen," Suzy embarks on a journey towards discovering what truly caused her friend's untimely death.
Although this book deals with themes that some readers might not have experienced themselves, like the death of a friend and being bullied at school, everyone can identify with at least one aspect of the story - whether it's feeling like someone who is out of place in this world or being abandoned or mistreated by someone they love. Above all, it's a coming-of-age story, Suzy's development as a character marked with her eventual satisfaction with not having all the answers. The writing is excellent and thought-provoking, and each character feels real and authentic, all the way down to each of Suzy's thoughts and feelings. A recommended read for those of all ages - but especially, (for whom the author dedicates the book) "for curious kids everywhere."
Reviewed by Emili K.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Review by Sophie G.
Suzy Swanson is an enigma; she's an introvert, loves science statistics, and isn't too bright when it comes to social cues. But, she is still happy because she has her best friend, Fanny. Well, until the two have a fall out and Fanny dies in a drowning accident. Filled with grief and guilt, Suzy isolates herself and refuses to speak, straining her relationship with her family. Refusing to believe that Fanny died from drowning, she throws herself into scientific research to prove that her friend's death was not an accident. Through this, Suzy's obsession eventually hatches into a grandiose plan that involves traveling all the way to Australia!
I can deeply relate to Suzy's plight and how she deals with loss; with loss, we've all had many thoughts of "what if's" and "why's", which is portrayed excellently by this book. Ali Benjamin does an excellent job of writing in an naive yet insightful tone, which successfully brings out Suzy's personality. He also portrayed the results of strained family relationships very well. The only problem I had with this book, however, was that each new discovery Suzy found was too convenient, and it did not show many difficulties Suzy had with researching.