Review: The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin



Author: Ali Benjamin
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: March 10th 2016
Genre: MG, YA, Fiction
Pages: 343

Suzy is twelve when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it’s not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just 5. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realizes that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn’t just drown – she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy’s logical mind than a random drowning – cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death.

Suzy’s journey to acceptance is quiet – she resolves to either say something important, or say nothing at all. But it’s also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

What can I say about this book? Well, to put it simply, I just adored it. I was reluctant to read this at first because I hadn’t heard much hype about it nor did I think I’d be interested in a MG book. But I’m so glad I gave it a chance because it was a really lovely read.

“It’s peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person’s absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.”

Benjamin’s style of writing is unique and perfect. Maybe it was because it was MG, but her writing style flowed easily and it was simple to read. The plot and storyline is a unique one that I’ve not read anything like before.
Suzy, a girl who chooses not to talk since the death of her best friend, goes on a journey herself to find out what truly caused her friend’s death. Franny, her friend, died due to a drowning incident. Yet Suzy cannot bring herself to believe this. Franny was an excellent swimmer so she turns to only one conclusion: death by jellyfish.

“The thing you and I understand, Jamie, is that having venom doesn’t make a creature bad. Venom is protection. The more fragile the animal, the more it needs to protect itself. So the more venom a creature has, the more we should be able to forgive that animal. They’re the ones that need it most. And, really, what is more fragile than a jellyfish, which doesn’t even have any bones?”

And to end this review of a really great book, I’m going to talk about Suzy herself and how great of a character she is. She’s just so sweet and loveable and you can’t help but feel for her throughout the majority of the book. She’s only twelve and she’s lost her best friend and at the same time, she’s suffering at the hands of bullies. Her confidence and determination to find out what happened to Franny are some of her best traits, and the fact that she chooses not to speak adds to her character.

Also, I shouldn’t have to even say this in this day and age, but thank you Ali Benjamin for the LGBTQ+ representation in Suzy’s brother and his boyfriend. They weren’t in a lot of it, but at the same time I wasn’t expecting any at all, so thank you. It definitely made the book more. realistic.

4 stars out of 5!