Suzy Swanson knows why Franny Jackson died. Sure, everyone has been telling her it was “just one of those things” when her former best friend drowned in the ocean, but Suzy is convinced there Needs to be a Scientific Explanation. And she knows she’s figured out what it is: deadly jellyfish stings. So Suzy sets out to research that, and she even plans a trip to Australia to come to terms with her best friend’s death — and her guilt about what happened between them before.
There’s a LOT going on in this book: dead friend, grief, friends growing apart, bullying, science, divorce … it was almost too much for me. I ended up focusing on the science aspect of it, which is really pretty cool. I really liked all the jellyfish facts, and the research Suzy ended up doing on them. I liked that she had a fantastic science teacher (my girls’ seventh-grade science teacher was really pretty awesome too) who inspired kids to want to learn.
But other than that, the book is just drama and more Drama. Middle-school kids are mean, and Ali Benjamin captures that perfectly. I felt copious amounts of pity for Suzy, such an awkward girl, and no one (hardly) has any compassion for her. No wonder she stops talking.
That said, while the resolution was done well, I never really wholly enjoyed this book. Too much being made uncomfortable by Suzy’s awkwardness and the bullying of the kids around her.
But then, maybe that was the point?
Rated: Mild, for younger readers, just for some bullying situations. It’s longish, but there’s nothing questionable for younger kids. It is a bit on the depressing side, so maybe super-sensitive ones wouldn’t want to read it. That said, the science is pretty cool.