The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, review by Sarah Bagby
For me, a good book has well drawn characters, an intriguing plot, language that disappears so I am transported, the transcendence of an individual’s experience to the universal, and finally redemption or resolution. The Thing About Jellyfish, a debut novel for middle-grade readers by Ali Benjamin, is a good book.
Middle-grade girls often experience their first heartbreak when their best friend decides it’s time to break up. Just before Franny Jackson, a great swimmer, drowned, she abandoned her long time friend Suzy Swanson for a new group of friends. Confused and unbearably hurt, Suzy‘s world further crumbles when her parents divorce. Nothing makes sense.
Suzy stops speaking and throws herself into a scientific quest of her imagination in order to understand why all these terrible things are happening to her. Ali Benjamin juxtaposes Suzy’s misunderstood and overwhelming emotions with a quest for a scientific or rational explanation for the unexplainable things that happen in life. If she can prove Franny died from a rare jellyfish sting, perhaps her sadness will be alleviated and her world will once again feel secure.
With The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin has drawn a character so likeable and unique, yet so universal, that by the end I was crying tears of grief for Suzy and for me. Then, as Suzy inevitably finds comfort, her tears turn into "tears of love” and so did mine.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. You can listen to her review HERE.