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Review: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Title: The Thing about JellyfishThe Thing about Jellyfish

Author: Ali Benjamin

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 352

Date of Publication: March 10th, 2016

Rating: 5/5

My Review:

Coping with grief is difficult for anyone and this relates the thoughts of a twelve year old girl who copes by being an elective mute. As she struggles to understand how her friend, a strong swimmer, could have drowned she seeks to discover a reason for it happening. She becomes obsessed with the theory that jellyfish must be to blame and carries out research to discover more. The story is packed with facts that Suzy discovers . . . .

Suzy is a great character, a very bright young lady who retains and recalls facts she’s found interesting easily, linking them together in what seems to her to be a logical manner. This actually causes problems for her relating to her peers as many find her seriousness odd. She’s also having to cope with her parent’s splitting up and  other difficulties at school. Keeping mute is her way of doing so. The story is told from Suzy’s point of view but includes flashbacks to other events as well as present time ones. It is an enthralling and very different read, one that I enjoyed, especially as Suzy finds other people to relate to, including a caring teacher who helps support and encourage her and her lab partner (who has problems of his own, too)- giving them opportunities to develop their interest in science even further.

Some of the descriptions and explanations given in the story are beautifully expressive, offering a valid alternative point of view and stimulating thought and discussion. It is an exploration of how attitudes, behaviours and relationships change through pre-teens and adolescence, through the eyes and thoughts of Suzy and her perceptions of the actions of her peers. I was wary that it might be a depressing read but it certainly isn’t. Yes, there are sad times in the story but it shows the journey to a happier reality and the tears I shed towards the end were happy ones. It is a great story in its own right but could be used by teachers or parents to help explore feelings and stimulate discussions, too. I highly recommend it to middle graders, young adults and adults alike, a well researched, emotive story that is decidedly different and superbly written – I learnt a lot about jellyfish, too!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.   


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.

Suzy is 12 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.

Perfect for fans of Wonder, Counting By 7s and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

This book is available from a variety of sources including

Amazon (UK)         Amazon (US)        Barnes and Noble


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