Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing about Jellyfish. Ali Benjamin. 2015. Little, Brown. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Thing About Jellyfish is a middle grade novel showing one girl's reaction to a former friend's unexpected death. To say she STRUGGLES would be an understatement. She breaks down, or shuts down even. Suzy (Zu) turns to science for the answers. But her obsession with finding THE answer leads to more trouble. Though she herself doesn't see it. To Suzy there has to be one definitive answer to WHY her friend drowned. And until she proves her theory, she is going to stay obsessed with jellyfish.

I have very mixed feelings about The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. At times I loved it. At times I hated it. I didn't consistently feel any one way about it. Perhaps this is directly connected with how I felt about the characters.

Zu (Suzy) is at times likable and infuriating. On the one hand, her account very much focuses in on her as a victim. Poor Suzy, doesn't fit in, she doesn't belong. Suzy grew up having one really good, solid friendship. But as the two girls grew--Franny is her name--they grew apart. That is Suzy stayed exactly the same as she always was. And Franny started growing up, becoming older, more in touch socially. Zu becomes increasingly ANGRY with Franny. She takes this venomous anger to EXTREMES. If she'd merely felt all angsty and angry and hurt and confused and whatnot, I'd have sympathized more. I really would have. But because she chose to act out, well, I have a really hard time relating to Zu. Socially awkward misfit, yes, I can relate to that. Not having anyone to sit with at lunch time, yes, I can do that too. Not really wanting to talk unless you have something important to say, unless you feel really heard, I can get that to in a way. But it's the extremities that Zu goes to that keeps me from identifying with her in the end. For example, Zu is out of touch with right and wrong in big ways, extreme ways. The end of school incident between Zu and Franny is a great example of how out-of-touch she is. Not to mention the whole, it would be a great idea for me to steal money from my parents and travel to Australia to meet a perfect stranger.

I actually liked several of the "minor" characters in this one. I really liked the boy who befriends her and calls her "Belle." And I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the science teacher. So there were definitely things I enjoyed about this one. But there were also things that I didn't enjoy, things that troubled me.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Ms. Yingling 7:15 PM  

I don't see this resonating with students. An odd, ultimately unsatisfying book.

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

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I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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