book review · books · children's fiction · fiction · nonfiction

The Thing About Jellyfish

Warnings: none.
Author: Ali Benjamin


Suzy doesn’t speak anymore. Not since her best friend, Franny, drowned. Suzy couldn’t believe it – Franny was an excellent swimmer. She must have been stung by a deadly jellyfish. It’s the only explanation. And Suzy is going to prove it.
So she retreats into silence, researching the jellyfish and formulating a plan that will take her across the world to discover the truth about the creature that she’s certain took her best friend away from her.’

I picked this up during a particularly empty shift at the library. It was in the children’s section, so I wasn’t expecting too much. It has a lot of 5 star reviews on Goodreads, but I agree more with the people who gave it lower reviews.

In the author’s note at the end of the book, they state that this book started as a nonfiction essay about jellyfish which cleared a lot up for me. There are a lot of jellyfish facts in this book. As someone who enjoys documentaries and information, I found this quite interesting, but someone who came for the story may have found it less absorbing.

The original nonfiction nature of the book meant that the chapters showing the friendship between Suzy and Franny felt a bit lacking in emotion to me. Sure, I empathised with Suzy for losing her friend, but the slightly detached way these chapters were written made me put more blame on Suzy than I wanted to. As the book went on, however, I became more interested in this sub-plot, so I ended up enjoying it more than I did at the start.

As a lover of a variety of characters, I was excited when Suzy’s brother and his boyfriend came in – but then there was no development. In fact, the only character really focussed on was Suzy, with a few mentions of Franny in between. This worked well for the solitary nature that I think Suzy was giving off, but I still felt that more could’ve been put into the other characters.

The grief represented in the book seemed very real to me – the confusion and loss that Suzy was feeling fuelled her to draw hasty conclusions, and I thought that would be how a young person would deal with a sudden, unexplained loss, especially if she hadn’t had anyone close to her die before (this wasn’t specified in the book, but I felt that it was hinted at).



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