The Thing About Jellyfish

Book review by Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Thing About Jellyfish Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 10+

Beautiful, grief-tinged, coming-of-age story has it all.

Parents say

age 12+

Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+

Based on 20 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 9+

Great book

I think the thing about jellyfish was a very good book . My favorite thing about the book is that suzy thought about things instead of going head on into craziness. It was fictional but not too fictional. I highly recommend this book.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
age 10+

A Few Things About 'The Thing About Jellyfish'

I'm disheartened to see other adult reviewers who think a quick peck-type kiss between a devoted adult couple and a spot of blood indicating a first period make this book "too mature" for kids in elementary and/or middle school. Girls typically have their first periods between the ages of 9 and 14, or grades 4-8, and one thing I loved about The Thing About Jellyfish was how plainly the protagonist's first cycle was handled - quick, matter-of-fact, not a major deal, no stigma or shame. That's hugely important for young girls to read - and boys too! The kiss is the same. Quick, not a big deal, it just IS. Nothing graphic or inappropriate for the age group, especially considering that picture books for pre-schoolers feature similar kisses between heterosexual couples - having the quick kiss be between two males does not make it "more mature" or deserving of a warning. Regarding the book itself, the protagonist is relatable and her grief is palpable. I cried more than once for her, not just because of her inability to accept her friend's cause of death, but her inability to get past the end of their friendship and her general social awkwardness. If she were a real child and I were her parent, I'd have her evaluated for what used to be labeled Aspergers (Autism Spectrum Disorder). She is such a genuine kid and her struggles are presented in a way that other kids like her can relate to, and kids who don't understand kids like her (like her peers) can learn from. While some of the language and word choice (and scientific info) may be challenging for some middle grade readers, especially those who struggle with reading comprehension, content-wise I would put this book at 9+, with the ideal reader age between 11-13, though others could obviously enjoy it too (I did!). It is an especially ideal novel for kids dealing with grief - it may help them feel less alone in their experiences, similar to "The Ethan I Was Before" by Ali Standish or "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness. The one cause for concern I could see parents having is the fact that she uses a stolen credit card to book herself a flight, then runs away. This is not a super uncommon trope (Inside Out, which appeals to an even younger audience, does that same) it may be worth having a conversation with your kids about how dangerous that can be and how lucky she is nothing terrible happened to her. I would NOT say that should put anyone off reading though - on the contrary, the best books for middle schoolers are conversation starters, in my opinion, and I therefore recommend adults read it to so they can discuss it with their kids.

Book Details

Our Editors Recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and grief stories

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