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The Thing about Jellyfish Paperback – 22 Sep 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Main Market Ed. edition (22 Sept. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447291255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447291251
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

A painful story smartly told, Benjamin's first solo novel has appeal well beyond a middle-school audience (Kirkus Reviews Starred Review)

A moving portrayal of loss and healing (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)

Benjamin explores the heartbreaking subject of grief in the young with dreamy, meditative and elegiac prose (The New York Times)

This is a heartbreakingly touching debut about friendship, loss, fear and love that is funny, clever and beautifully written (Daily Mail)

[an] intense and nuanced tale of friendship, revenge and youthful resourcefulness (Guardian)

One of the most beautifully written debuts I've read in a really long time (Sophie So Many Books, So Little Time)

Book Description

An extraordinary debut about a twelve-year-old girl coming to terms with her best friend's death in the only way she knows how.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
“There was a time when my mom knew what had happened to you, when the weight of it had already hit her and I was just running through the grass like it was any other day. And there was a time when someone else knew and my mom didn’t. And a time when your mom knew and almost no one else on the planet did.
And that means that there was a time when you were gone and no one on Earth had any idea. Just you, all alone, disappearing into the water and no one even wondering yet.
And that is an incredibly lonely thing to think about.”

Suzy – ‘Zu’ to her mom – is weird, the kind of weird she never had to think about until sixth grade. Even though her parents chastised her for talking too much, for excitedly sharing facts and trivia about the world rather than listening to others, her best friend Franny always got her. They swore they’d tell each other if they ever became the kind of girls obsessed with boys and popularity and cosmetics. They’d have a sign.

But when it happens – when Franny becomes one of the cool girls who shuns Suzy for her oddness – the message hasn’t been agreed on. And when, that summer, Franny drowns in a freak accident, Suzy can’t forgive herself for what’s happened, or shake the feeling that if she’d only known the last time they saw each other was the last time, things would look very different.

Suzy’s seventh-grade science teacher assigns them a report, and those instructions shape the structure for the novel – the book is divided up into ‘hypothesis’, ‘variables’, ‘procedure’ and so on. After a trip to the New England Aquarium and an exhibit of eerie creatures that seem like ‘ghost hearts’, her research leads her to jellyfish – and a particular deadly kind that she’s convinced caused Franny’s death.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is so, so beautiful to read. I raced through it on a Sunday morning and didn’t get out of bed until I’d finished it. 13-year-old Suzy’s desperate story will tug on your heartstrings and really make you think about how the loss of a friend can affect a human, particularly children and teenagers.

Suzy just can’t accept that Franny died whilst swimming on a family holiday, because she was always such a great swimmer. She chooses not to speak unless absolutely necessary as she goes on a mission to show everyone that Franny’s tragic death wasn’t as straight forward as it seemed. It just seems so unfair for a good swimmer to drown, so Suzy is determined to prove that a sea creature caused her death instead.

What I loved about this book is that, despite the lack of conversation in this novel due to Suzy’s selective speaking, Suzy is one of the most chatty, funny and charming characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. She narrates this story and fills it with fascinating facts that manage to enhance the story rather than distract from it, and I completely adored it.

Ali Benjamin’s writing style is perfect, and I would recommend The Thing About Jellyfish to everyone, particularly parents and teachers.
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Format: Hardcover
Suzy is dealing with the death by drowning of her former best friend by indulging in self-imposed silence and a stubborn refusal to talk to anyone. This exploration of grief and denial is beautifully written with graceful notes and arresting observations on every page. It is also over 300 pages of precocious, self-absorbed navel gazing by a girl who is apparently unconcerned about and untouched by the emotional carnage she is leaving in her wake as a consequence of her behavior. Mom, Dad, sibling, friends, teachers, and so on are just collateral victims of Suzy's journey.

At the outset I alternated among: appreciating the tone and style of the writing and the beautiful phrasing and pace, checking to see how many more pages I had left, and wanting to slap Suzy in the head with a cold wet fish.

Reviews and blurbs emphasize the elegiac passages, the jellyfish angle/conceit, and Suzy's marvelous search for personal and universal meaning as she navigates her own inner space. O.K. as far as that goes. Suzy is also cruel, irresponsible and a major narcissistic drama queen. This all makes the book interesting, maddening, annoying and compelling.

I guess my point is that this isn't an emotionally satisfying trip down memory lane with Scout in "To Kill A Mockingbird". This is a roller coaster ride through the mixed up and complicated head of a conflicted and sometimes childish and dense twelve year old girl. It isn't all gauzy and upbeat and for all of its mild and mellow passages it is challenging and in many ways confrontational. So, if there was ever a read-it-yourself-and-see-what-you-think, this is it.

Please note that I picked up a free copy of the ARC of this book at the 2015 ALA Convention. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Coping with grief is difficult for anyone and this relates the thoughts of a twelve year old girl who copes by being an elective mute. As she struggles to understand how her friend, a strong swimmer, could have drowned she seeks to discover a reason for it happening. She becomes obsessed with the theory that jellyfish must be to blame and carries out research to discover more. The story is packed with facts that Suzy discovers . . . .

Suzy is a great character, a very bright young lady who retains and recalls facts she’s found interesting easily, linking them together in what seems to her to be a logical manner. This actually causes problems for her relating to her peers as many find her seriousness odd. She’s also having to cope with her parent’s splitting up and other difficulties at school. Keeping mute is her way of doing so. The story is told from Suzy’s point of view but includes flashbacks to other events as well as present time ones. It is an enthralling and very different read, one that I enjoyed, especially as Suzy finds other people to relate to, including a caring teacher who helps support and encourage her and her lab partner (who has problems of his own, too)- giving them opportunities to develop their interest in science even further.

Some of the descriptions and explanations given in the story are beautifully expressive, offering a valid alternative point of view and stimulating thought and discussion. It is an exploration of how attitudes, behaviours and relationships change through pre-teens and adolescence, through the eyes and thoughts of Suzy and her perceptions of the actions of her peers. I was wary that it might be a depressing read but it certainly isn’t.
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