The Mayor’s Review: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Mayor’s Review of The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Available: September 2015

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Sad/Empathy, Coming of Age

Age: Middle Grade (4th-8th)


I loved this book. When I first started reading, I thought “oh, another sad” book as I had just read a few others involving a young person dying.  But, it evolved quickly to be more than just about dealing with death and I was hooked. The story is told from the perspective of Suzy, a 7th grader, whose best friend, Franny, died over the summer in a swimming accident. Suzy is convinced that her death was related to a rare jellyfish sting. As she dives into researching this theory, we realize the depth of her grief. It’s a poignant story about how young people make sense of death and their own life amidst the normal struggles of young adulthood.  There’s also a good bit of science and info about jellyfish weaved throughout the book that is engaging and interesting.

My Favorite Part: 

The relationship between Mrs. Turton, Suzy, and Justin was really special to me. I love seeing stories honor the role of amazing teachers who draw kids out and reinforce their natural love of learning.  Middle school teachers are a special breed and are so critical in the development of many, many young people.  Thank you teachers for sharing your unconditional love and supporting our children’s curiosity!

Why It Mattered to Me: 

It is so well written, emotionally charged, and relatable to kids who feel “different’ as they transition from elementary to middle school.  As a mom of a kid going through this life stage, I’m very aware and attuned to changes in friendships and the pain and joy of watching kids figure out who they are – apart from who society, parents, or other kids say they should be.  I think this would be great for middle school lit circle discussions, especially for kids who might feel a bit off from their peers.

Who Should Read This Book:  

Any 4th-8th grader who likes well done realistic fiction, especially those who like ‘sad’ books like The Honest Truth, Wonder, Counting by 7s, etc.

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