The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin


This book is almost five years old, but I am very pleased to have just discovered it! The Thing About Jellyfish is a quirky, middle-grade coming-of-age novel about a young girl called Suzy with an unhealthy obsession with “jellies”.

Set in small-town Massachusetts in America, the story centres around Suzy’s thought processes after her best friend Franny drowns in what seems to be a freak accident. Suzy is finding it very hard to believe that Franny “just drowned” without another reason for it happening, because Franny was an amazing swimmer. And because Franny was once Suzy’s best friend, until they fell out a few weeks prior to Franny dying.

Fuelled partly by guilt, grief and sensitivity, Suzy goes all out to find an answer to the “mystery” of her friend’s accident. And on a visit to an aquarium, she discovers the small and deadly jellyfish Irukandji which has an incredibly strong poison. Suzy believes Franny must have been stung by the Irukandji and that’s how she died.

The story is a very moving, emotional one as we descend into Suzy’s grief-stricken OCD and the fact she chooses not to talk to anyone for months whilst she hunts for the answers of how jellyfish accidentally killed her friend. For science lovers, the book has beautiful jellyfish illustrations and I learnt more facts about the physiology of jellies than I’d ever expected to know in my life!

Suzy is a complex, sensitive, self-punishing and wonderful, sentimental character that the author has painted well. She embodies the frantic, confused and ill-judged actions of a child in the midst of trying to understand how the world really works, i.e. that not everything happens for a reason you can know about.

The Thing About Jellyfish is a lovely, absorbing, emotional and educational book and I highly recommend it!


Ali Benjamin
Pan Macmillan

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