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The Thing About Jellyfish Hardcover – September 22, 2015
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From School Library Journal
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
*"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."―Publishers Weekly, starred review
*"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....readers...will fully immerse themselves in this superbly written, heartfelt novel."―School Library Journal, starred review
*"Benjamin's involving novel features clean, fluid writing that is highly accessible, yet rich with possibilities for discussion.... Her highly individual, first-person narrative makes compelling reading.... An uncommonly fine first novel."―Booklist, starred review
*"This novel has it all: just-right pacing, authentic voices and characters, beautifully crafted plot, and superb writing. Readers will find that this story lingers with them after the book is closed."―VOYA, starred review
"There are...a lot of children who might not only benefit from this book but also find themselves deeply moved by it."―New York Times Book Review
"Seventh-grade narrator Suzy Swanson will win readers' hearts as she silently struggles to come to terms with her complex emotions over the death of her former best friend."―Shelf Awareness
"A heartfelt read for kids and adults."
―First for Women Magazine
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Recently, (this is 2016) I reread the book and appreciated the story and beauty in it much more than the first read. I rarely read a book a second time, but am glad that I did. This time, I picked up on the quotes of Carl Sagan, that I had forgotten were even in there.