by Ali Benjamin
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The thing about The Thing About Jellyfish is that it’s one of those books that adults find really powerful and kids think is just okay. It’s sort of like broccoli – every now and then you’ll find a kid who really likes it, but in general it’s more of an adult thing. Of course it was well-written and made me teary in parts and had meaningful themes and tied together nicely, but it wasn’t really a favorite. I’ve had a few kids asking for it so it must have been a word-of-mouth thing, but interest has really waned recently.
Twelve-year-old Suzy Swanson’s former best friend drowned last summer. When Suzy found out, she stopped talking. She became obsessed with the idea that Franny had actually been stung by an Irukandji jellyfish, and set about finding a world expert to help her prove it. The story is told in flashbacks to sixth grade as their friendship falls apart because Franny started growing up faster than Suzy (being interested in fashion and boys, making friends with more popular girls), and then in present tense to seventh grade without Franny. Suzy remembers that Franny had asked her to send her a signal if she ever became “like that” – like the girls she does eventually befriend – so Suzy decides to send her a big signal.
Rounding out the cast of characters are Suzy’s seventh-grade science partner, Justin; their teacher, Mrs. Turton; her parents, who are getting divorced; and her brother Aaron and his boyfriend, Rocco – all of whom I found very compelling, almost moreso than Franny and Suzy. The whole time, I was wondering, who cares why Franny died? Which is eventually the conclusion Suzy comes to as she begins to heal.
Note: I read this book as an audiobook and it doesn’t work quite as well as the print copy due to illustrations and textual/formatting clues.