Parents' Guide to

The Thing About Jellyfish

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

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

The Thing About Jellyfish Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 14+

Amazing book, VERY mature topics

This book is, first of all, AMAZING. It is really good in way that many kids' books are not. It also has the ability (think: Wonder) to develop empathy for kids that might be different. The main character is compelling. However, it has some extremely mature topics, which I'll outline below. In my opinion, although an elementary-schooler would be capable of reading this book, the mature topics make this a better read for a teen. Plot: The book is about a seventh grader named Suzy processing the death of her former best friend, Franny, who has died over the summer between sixth and seventh grade (she drowns). What you learn throughout the book is that Suzy and Franny were inseparable since the age of 5, but in sixth grade, Franny started hanging out with the popular kids and Suzy became increasingly unpopular. There's a lot of bullying that goes on, including some pretty mean things that Franny does to her, one of which is spitting on her face. One character kills a frog by throwing it against a tree, which is described in some detail. In a misunderstanding, sort of, Suzy (who is socially awkward) ends up putting pee in Franny's locker. This was the last time that Suzy ever saw Franny so she has guilt about that. One of the main plot points of the book is Suzy wanting to prove that Franny didn't drown but was stung by a jellyfish. To this end, she plots to run away from home to go to Australia to go visit a guy who knows a lot about jellyfish. She steals her dad's credit card information and buys a plane ticket, steals money from loved ones, and skips school to sneak to the airport. She ends up getting caught and everyone is very forgiving, but (as with Inside Out) I thought the whole stealing-and-sneaking thing was not desirable in a protagonist for kids :) (in fairness, she does realize that this was a bad idea afterwards, and notes that one hazard of not talking to anyone else, ever, is that no one checks your ideas for craziness - my paraphrase). Mature topics (in no particular order): - Suzy gets her period - Suzy's friend is on ADHD medication and that is discussed at various times throughout the book (he is a good character that is nice to Suzy despite the other kids being mean) - Suzy sees a psychologist throughout the book to help her deal with the grief (but she doesn't speak to the person, so mostly they just sit there in silence) -obviously, Suzy's friend drowns -Suzy's older brother lives with his boyfriend and they both play a role throughout the story, and at one point they kiss -bullying, teasing, etc. aimed at Suzy because she is awkward/smart/interested in learning, including by her former best friend - killing of a frog that is fairly graphic -Suzy stealing from parents/relatives, including credit card info - Suzy running away from home, which is very well-planned-out - generally there is a lot of shutting oneself off from adults (she doesn't speak to her parents or any adult for most of the book) The thing is, Suzy is a very relatable character whom you really pull for. I was actually in tears for probably half the book. It's really amazing. However, I would not recommend it to a elementary schooler, at least not without having discussions with your child about the topics that your family might find notable.
1 person found this helpful.
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

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4):
Kids say (20):

Beautifully written, lovingly constructed, deeply touching, and thoroughly engaging, this gem of a debut from Ali Benjamin delivers tremendous emotional depth with remarkable grace and restraint. Suzy Swanson is an engaging, quirky, utterly believable, often lyrical narrator whose unique voice will appeal to independent readers of any age. Life and death; science and heart; and in-between just trying to get through seventh grade all are on display in THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, structured and voiced in a way that feels unique, authentic, and universal all at once.

Book Details

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