Monday, August 31, 2020

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is a middle grade book that tells the story of Suzy, who has become silent after the death of her best friend from drowning. It doesn't make sense to Suzy that Franny drowned; Franny was always an excellent swimmer. Suzy's convinced that she can't have simply drowned without something major having occurred, even though her mother says these things just happen and even strong swimmers like Franny can drown if something goes wrong.

Convinced that something strange must have happened to lead to Franny's death, Suzy studies up on jellyfish and decides it must have been a jellyfish sting that killed Franny instantly. But, Suzy needs help making sure that's the case, so she reads up online and searches for a scientist who specializes in jellyfish to help her.

Franny and Suzy had fallen out, a while back, and just before Franny's death Suzy did something to let Franny know that she was hanging out with the wrong people, just to get her attention. Is guilt driving Suzy's determination to find a lethal jellyfish to explain Franny's death or is she just unable to accept the death of a person she cared for when it happened so far away? Can a new friend help Suzy move on?

OK, this is weird. When I closed The Thing About Jellyfish, I was totally blown away. I liked the progression from "girl not speaking because she's clearly traumatized" to "friendship and kindness help child emerge from grief" and while I thought the facts about jellyfish were a bit much, the story didn't go where I expected it to go, exactly, and I liked that. It's best to be surprised in your reading, rather than for things to unfold as expected, in most cases.

Having said that, when I went to review The Thing About Jellyfish, this morning, I couldn't remember a thing about it. That's unusual for me. I find very few books instantly forgettable and it's only been 2 weeks since I read it. So, while I gave it 5 stars because I had to know what would happen to Suzy and whether or not she was actually going to get in touch with the scientist of her choosing, in hindsight I probably ought to bump that down a bit for so quickly evaporating from my memory (I had to read the book description to jog my memory). But, it's an excellent read so I won't.

Recommended - Sad and uplifting, interesting and (at one point) a little shocking. While I found this story didn't stick with me, as a child I think I might have just shrugged and reread it, remembering that I enjoyed it in spite of having forgotten the details of the content.

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