Book review: The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish book coverby Ali Benjamin
Chapter book
Interest level: grades 5 through 8
Reading level: 4.3
4 out of 5 stars

This is a beautiful story about a 12-year-old girl, Suzy, who is struggling to process the death of her closest friend, Franny. This struggle is compounded by the fact that their friendship was strained and floundering when Franny suddenly drowned on vacation in the summer.

As we join the story, Suzy no longer speaks out loud to anyone. Through chapters that alternate between the present and flashback glimpses of Franny and Suzy’s relationship, we piece together what happened between the friends, and why no talking has become Suzy’s way of coping.

Ali Benjamin does a nice job of creating a story that tackles the heavy topic of death from the perspective of a child. While you cannot avoid sad moments, it never feels overwhelming. As we piece the past together, we can also see how Suzy’s life is changing, bringing hope to her future.

Suzy makes a connection between Franny’s death and jellyfish, and there are a lot of jellyfish facts and information in the book. There are also honest looks at bullying, and issues as children start enter adolescence. There are also several really uncomfortable scenes that highlight the sometimes ugly nature of human behavior.

For me, the strongest part of the story was the relationship between Franny and her brother, Aaron. Benjamin really brought Aaron and his boyfriend, Rocco, to life, and they both unconditionally support Suzy. This is a book about all kinds of relationships, positive and negative.

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