If you are in the mood for a heartfelt tearjerker, then this book is for you. I love books that make me emotional, so naturally, I loved Ali Benjamin’s novel, The Thing About Jellyfish. The story is told from the perspective of Suzy Swanson. Suzy is not your typical middle school girl. She doesn’t get along with many people, and she seems to know facts beyond what others are capable of knowing. As I was reading this novel, my teacher's brain kept wondering if Ali Benjamin intended Suzy to almost have Autistic-like tendencies. Suzy fixates and she can’t let things go. Her brain never stops, and she is very limited in her ability to understand the social taboos that one is often expected to follow in middle school.
Suzy’s life is turned upside down multiple times in this story. This first time is when her best friend Franny Jackson decides to ditch Suzy at school in order to fit in more with the “popular crowd.” You see the typical struggle of a middle school again. But then, life becomes exponentially more difficult when Franny drowns while swimming with her family.
The drama of the novel all centers around Suzy’s inability to process the changes in her life. She spirals out of control. Suzy then becomes desperate in her efforts to find the answers that led to Franny’s tragic death. In her mind, the only viable explanation is a jellyfish sting. Why else would her best friend be dead?
I would recommend this novel for an older audience. It is much more suited for a middle school or high school student. This message is great; however, there is a ton of scientific and technical vocabulary within this text. I loved how Ali Benjamin utilized these nonfiction elements of her writing to heighten Suzy’s obsession with Franny’s death. It just makes this novel out of reach for some younger readers.