The Thing About Jellyfish - Ali Benjamin

Genre: Fiction/Middle-Grade
Synopsis: After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.


Review: The themes of death/loss/grief/coping/moving on are not exactly uncommon in YA books, but this book is actually Middle Grade and deals with the above themes in a gentle and mature way while still being accessible to younger readers.

Told from Suzy's perspective, we see her cut off contact with people while she struggles to absorb the fact of her friend's death and to find a rational meaning behind it. It's easy to really like Suzy and to relate to her need to find that meaning. Presented in the style of a research report, Suzy (a highly rational person herself) logically forms a hypothesis, does research, gathers data, and comes to a conclusion. But of course, there is nothing rational or logical in death, and this is the thing Suzy must come to terms with.

Short chapters and several parts make this a quick, easy read which is often funny and occasionally heart-wrenching. There are certain analogies and explanations of the more subtle aspects of the human condition in this novel which I think, while intelligible to younger readers, will offer a lot to older readers too. Ali Benjamin is clearly a skilled writer, capable of expressing difficult concepts in universally relatable language.

Perhaps nothing overly special or original broadly speaking, the nuances of this novel make it worth the read.

Rating: 4/5

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