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The Thing about Jellyfish
Contributor(s): Benjamin, Ali (Author)

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ISBN: 0316380865     ISBN-13: 9780316380867
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Binding Type: Hardcover - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: September 2015

Annotation: Twelve-year-old Suzy Swanson wades through her intense grief over the loss of her best friend by investigating the rare jellyfish she is convinced was responsible for her friend's death.
Additional Information
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes - Death, Grief, Bereavement
- Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes - Emotions & Feelings
- Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes - Friendship
Dewey: FIC
LCCN: 2014044025
Age Level: 10-14
Grade Level: 5-9
Lexile Measure: 740(Not Available)
Physical Information: 1.3" H x 5.5" W x 7.7" (0.90 lbs) 352 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 176566
Reading Level: 5.0   Interest Level: Middle Grades   Point Value: 7.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): Ali Benjamin is a National Book Award Finalist for The Thing About Jellyfish, and the co-writer for HIV-positive teen Paige Rawl's coming-of-age memoir Positive as well as Tim Howard's New York Times bestseller The Keeper. She is a member of New England Science Writers and has written for The Boston GlobeMagazine, Martha Stewart's Whole Living, and Sesame Street. She lives in Massachusetts.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2016 Spring)
Suzy starts seventh grade traumatized by the accidental drowning of her former best friend, Franny, and by her parents' separation. However, she finds solace in researching the jellyfish she persuades herself caused Franny's death. Promising in voice, although overburdened by issues (including selective mutism), this is an original and affecting take on the preteen-turmoil novel.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2015 June #2)

In her first solo outing, Benjamin (coauthor of Positive with Paige Rawls) composes a moving portrayal of loss and healing. Franny Jackson and Suzy Swanson had been best friends for years until Franny joined a middle-school clique and began to drift from Suzy and her penchant for scientific facts. As seventh grade begins, 12-year-old Suzy channels the conflicting emotions surrounding Franny's drowning death into silence, shutting out her divorced parents, her older brother and his boyfriend, her psychologist, and a caring science teacher. Replacing language with research, Suzy follows the scientific method, whose structure mirrors that of the book, hoping to prove that a jellyfish sting was responsible for Franny's drowning. Reminiscent of works by Jennifer L. Holm and Sharon Creech, Benjamin's novel is a shining example of the highs and lows of early adolescence, as well as a testament to the grandeur of the natural world. Increasingly fascinated by her own theories, Suzy embarks on an ambitious plan to prove her hypothesis, while tentatively reaching out to new friends and finding support for her emerging voice. Ages 8–12. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2015 August)

Gr 4–7—Suzy's best friend, Franny Jackson, was a strong swimmer. There is no way she could have drowned, at least in Suzy's mind. Suzy's determined search for a different explanation for her friend's death leads her to believe that Franny was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish. Having nothing but time, since she has no other friends and has decided to stop talking, Suzy sets out to prove her theory. This multilayered novel takes readers on several concurrent emotional journeys. Benjamin skillfully blends time and narrative to slowly reveal truths about Suzy: first and foremost that their friendship was over long before Franny's death. The girl she had once thought was her best friend decided it was time for a middle school social upgrade, choosing popularity over her awkward childhood pal. Suzy's decision to seek revenge and remind Franny of their bond backfires, destroying what was left of their relationship. Consequently, Franny's death is the impetus for the protagonist's mission of personal reconciliation for the guilt and regret she feels over their falling out. Suzy's fierce intelligence, compounded by her painful transition into adolescence, makes her a sympathetic and compelling character. Benjamin's sense of timing and delivery is extraordinary, as she blends the visceral experiences of Suzy's journey with an internal dialogue that is authentic and poignant. Though Suzy herself is oddly unique in her self-imposed social ineptitude and singular focus, the politics of friendships and changing values of young teens will resonate with readers. Benjamin's inverse approach to tragedy, placing the death at the beginning of the novel and storytelling through the grieving process, transcends the trope, as the story triumphs in the affecting realities of emotional response and resilience. VERDICT Strong readers of middle grade realistic fiction will fully immerse themselves in this superbly written, heartfelt novel.—Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR

[Page 83]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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