Suzy’s having a pretty rough year. Her best friend died in a tragic drowning accident over the summer, and Suzy becomes convinced that it must have been a rare jellyfish sting that caused it. After all, terrible things don’t just happen for no reason. Convinced she’s right, Suzy embarks on an extensive research project to prove she’s right, and it culminates with a plan to travel across the world for confirmation of her theory.
Ali Benjamin’s novel about grief and the moving on process holds massive appeal not only for middle grade readers but older ones as well. Told in seven parts, neatly laid out according to the scientific method that Suzy is studying in school, Benjamin allows Suzy to shrewdly analyze both the past and the present. The result is largely emotional and affecting. Benjamin writes with a keen eye on the science aspects of her story, but she also shows great care for the emotional development of her characters.
This is not an easy read, but it’s a beautiful one. Zu is a bit of an odd child, and Benjamin lets her be one without judgment and with total authenticity. The book’s final arc subverts reader expectations about what will happen, and the result is satisfyingly realistic. It’s a moving story, and it’s one that younger readers will want to talk about.
Smart, honest, and raw. Recommended.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 2015. Library copy.