Author: Ali Benjamin

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Posted November 12, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali BenjaminThe Thing About Jellyfish on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist!

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

‘The thing is, a person gets so few chances to really fix something, to make it right. When one of those opportunities comes along, you can’t overthink it. You’ve got to grab hold of it and cling to it with all your might, no matter how cray cray it might seem.’

When Suzy’s mom sits her down to tell her that her former best friend Franny has died in a drowning accident, the only reason she gives her is that “sometimes things just happen”. Former best friend or not, Suzy fails to accept this simplistic verdict. The duo had been friends since they were five, but Franny found a new group of girls to hang out with when they went into Middle School leaving Suzy all by herself. So in addition to basically losing Franny a second time, Suzy is struggling to come to terms with her parent’s divorce as well. Deciding that her words are of little consequence, she decides one day to no longer speak. During a school field trip, she watches a jellyfish float through its watery cage, and it suddenly comes to her that she knows exactly how Franny died.

“That’s what science is,” she explained. “It’s learning what others have discovered about the world, and then – when you bump up against a question that no one has ever answered before – figuring out how to get the answer you need.

The Thing About Jellyfish bounces back and forth in time, slowly unfolding the story on how Franny
became the former best-friend. It’s a melancholy tale and you can’t help feeling for the poor girl. She’s never stopped caring for Franny though, and once she’s gone, Suzy feels that after some time has passed she’s the only one that still seems to care about her or even consider her death to be mysterious. This quickly leads her into a scientific research adventure into jellyfish from around the world, and most especially the Irukandji jellyfish. Through Suzy’s research, we learn that the sting of an Irukandji can cause muscle cramps which could essentially lead to drowning. At only a few centimeters long and almost completely transparent, Suzy believes it’s up to her to prove that Franny’s death wasn’t something that just happened.

‘There’s no single right way to say goodbye to someone you love. But the most important thing is that you keep some part of them inside you.’

The Thing About Jellyfish is a poignant story about coming to terms with your grief while the world around you continues like nothing has changed. The protagonist may only be twelve-years-old, however, her sentimental experience is something that will be easily understood and acknowledged by readers of all ages.