Rated Reads

The Thing About Jellyfish

by Ali Benjamin

Rated: Mild

Suzy Swanson never needed any friends besides Franny. Franny liked that Suzy talked too much and didn’t know how to act like the stylish, popular girls at their school. But as the girls started middle school, Franny started to change, and their friendship ended … and then Franny died. Suzy doesn’t understand any of it. She’s always been better at making sense of math and science than of people. Suzy decides to stop speaking and begins a quest to understand what really happened — which possibly involves jellyfish. As she researches more about these fascinating creatures, Suzy comes up with a crazy idea that just might help her find meaning in Franny’s death — and that just might help her make up for the horrible thing she did to end their friendship.

This is a beautifully crafted book, filled with almost poetic observations on jellyfish, friendship and much more. I love how awkward and intense Suzy is. She fights so hard to try to keep everything the same but eventually begins to find her way in a changing world. I’m inspired by how she gradually learns to let other people into her life, instead of pushing them away and immersing herself in facts and research. It’s a story of grieving and growth, that finds meaning in things as vast as the evolutionary journey of the jellyfish and as small as one middle-grade girl’s lonely heart.

Rated: Mild. There are no swear words, violence or sexual content. I’d almost consider this a children’s book except for the more mature themes of the book, a scene where two men kiss, and a mean prank that involves pee.

— Reviewed by Jennifer Neal

Jennifer Neal has worked as a third-grade teacher, a Spanish translator, and as a writing TA for an online university. She lives in Santee, California (near San Diego), with her husband and four young children.

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  • The Thing About Jellyfish
  • by Ali Benjamin
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: