Much like Suzy, I began researching jellyfish experts and taking notes, not quite sure where my efforts would take me. This is the story that emerged.(Ali Benjamin)
Ali Benjamins’s novel, The Thing About Jellyfish explores grief from the eyes of Suzy who is in Year 7. This book had a profound effect on me, mostly because I also experienced grief in high school. When I read this book it became clear that grief for both Suzy and I was a confusing time. What Benjamin explores in this novel is that grief affects us in many different ways and as a child or teen we don’t process this the same as adults do.
The Thing About Jellyfish By Ali Benjamin
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
I give this:
During the first three weeks of seventh grade, I’d learned on thing above all else: A person can become invisible simply by staying quiet. (Suzy)
Making sense of something such as grief can tie ones heart in knots and cause us to do irrational things to help us process such a big shock in our lives. Benjamin has seamlessly captured what it is like to be a young girl not only being lonely, bullied and smart, but also what it is like losing her best friends friendship and also losing her to death.
The characters, especially Zu (Suzy) are well written, I felt her every pain and heartache of being laughed at, having no friends and being unable to find her voice. I also felt joy and relief as her family found out what she had been going through and finding an unlikely friend through Justin, who also had differences in his life that were not easily accepted by others. I thought Benjamin did a good job at writing about family dynamics and how they love and care for one another, even when one doesn’t have a voice.
The Jellyfish are an extremely important part of the novel, and although I cannot say a while lot without giving too much away Suzy’s concentration on researching and note taking on Jellyfish help her deal with all that is hurting inside of her. It takes Zu on an important journey.
This book deals with the very real issues that young women and men go through in high school. While the topic of grief can be hard to read about, reading about bullying and ‘losing’ ones voice can be a source of comfort for other young people who feel alone in their suffering.
This novel is written for tweens and teens but as an adult I found this to be a very moving, true and raw piece of writing and recommend it for adults also.
Overall, an outstanding novel.