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Book Review

'Jellyfish' Is A Genuinely Good Book

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For me, a good book has well drawn characters, an intriguing plot, language that disappears so I am transported, the transcendence of an individual’s experience to the universal, and finally redemption or resolution. The Thing About Jellyfish, a debut novel for middle-grade readers by Ali Benjamin, is a good book.

Middle-grade girls often experience their first heartbreak when their best friend decides it’s time to break up. Just before Franny Jackson, a great swimmer, drowned, she abandoned her long time friend Suzy Swanson for a new group of friends. Confused and unbearably hurt, Suzy‘s world further crumbles when her parents divorce. Nothing makes sense.

Suzy stops speaking and throws herself into a scientific quest of her imagination in order to understand why all these terrible things are happening to her. Ali Benjamin juxtaposes Suzy’s misunderstood and overwhelming emotions with a quest for a scientific or rational explanation for the unexplainable things that happen in life. If she can prove Franny died from a rare jellyfish sting, perhaps her sadness will be alleviated and her world will once again feel secure.

With The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin has drawn a character so likeable and unique, yet so universal, that by the end I was crying tears of grief for Suzy and for me. Then, as Suzy inevitably finds comfort, her tears turn into "tears of love” and so did mine.