A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Thing About Jellyfish is a coming-of-age story about seventh-grader Suzy Swanson, whose best friend has just died by drowning. Death and grief are explored in nongraphic, literary detail. Suzy's a great role model for scientific inquiry, and there's a lot of educational value on academic as well as emotional levels. The pain of jellyfish stings is briefly described, there's speculation about the friend's death, and a spot of blood is mentioned in the context of a first period. Suzy's adult gay brother has a boyfriend and she mentions seeing through the windshield a quick kiss between them before they backed out of the driveway and drove to the movies. Readers of all ages will have a lot to think about regarding grief, hope, science as a field of study, friendship, and much more, on many levels.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Just before the start of seventh grade, Suzy Swanson learns that her best friend has drowned. But her friend was an excellent swimmer, and Suzy can't accept the idea that it's just a random event. Worse still, the last time they saw each other, Suzy and Franny were in a big fight. Suzy feels terrible about the way things were left between them, and she needs to find out how and why Franny died so she won't feel like the villain of Franny's life anymore. As she starts to learn about jellyfish, she thinks it's possible Franny drowned after being stung by a particularly venomous kind. To prove her theory correct, Suzy learns everything she can about jellyfish, and as she retreats into herself and her grief she becomes obsessed with consulting a jellyfish expert who lives on the other side of the world.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about grief. What do you think of the way Suzy's friend's death changes her? Is it realistic?
Thinking and talking about death can be hard. How can reading about it help? Do you feel differently about it after reading this book?
What is the thing about jellyfish?
- Author: Ali Benjamin
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: STEM, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: September 22, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 29, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age and grief stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.