Review: The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (InfoSoup)

Suzy knows that things happen for a reason. She loves nature and all of the facts about it and the way that science makes sense. But when her best friend drowns, Suzy just can’t make sense of it. They had fought before Franny left on vacation and now there is no way for Suzy to fix that. Suzy retreats into silence, refusing to speak to her parents or to anyone at school. As Suzy searches for a reason, she discovers that Franny might have been stung by a jellyfish. It is up to Suzy to prove that that is what happened and to let everyone see that there was a cause for Franny’s death. Filled with natural wonder and tangible grief, this book is an elegant and powerful look at how one child copes with loss.

Benjamin writes about nature with such awe, sharing facts about animals as if they were precious jewels. The facts about jellyfish alone are profound and concerning, allowing readers to understand Suzy’s fascination with them. Yet though these facts are in the book, it is Suzy’s inability to cope with reality that shines. Her unwillingness to accept that death can be an accident without any reason at all will speak to all readers.

Suzy is a great character. Filled with a powerful and all-encompassing grief, she becomes silent and yet somehow does not withdraw from life. Instead her silence allows her time to be more creative, more thoughtful about the loss she has experienced even while she is in denial about what has happened. Benjamin also beautifully tackles the grieving process, mingling it with the difficulties of middle school. Filled with flashbacks about the changing friendship of Franny and Suzy, this book addresses the way that even best friends grow apart.

Beautiful and luminous, this book is a powerful look at grief, loss and the way that we process our lives. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

2015 Irish Book Award Shortlists

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The shortlisted titles for the 2015 Irish Book Awards have been announced. Here are the titles in the youth categories:

Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year – Junior

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P. J. Lynch

The Day The Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

 A Dublin Fairytale I'm a Girl!

A Dublin Fairytale by Nicola Colton

I’m a Girl! by Yasmeen Ismail

Imaginary Fred The Snow Beast

Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer & Oliver Jeffers

The Snow Beast by Chris Judge


Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year – Senior

Asking For It Worlds Explode (Darkmouth, Book 2)

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

Darkmouth: Worlds Explode by Shane Hegarty

Demon Road (Demon Road, #1) Once upon a Place

Demon Road by Derek Landy

Once upon a Place by Eoin Colfer


One by Sarah Crossan