Why do things happen the way they do? Is it true that some things just happen with no rhyme or reason? That is just not something that Suzy is willing to accept during what becomes the hardest year of her life so far. In The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, Suzy is just about to begin 7th Grade when her best friend Franny dies in a drowning accident. When Suzy wants to know how Franny could have drowned when she was such a good swimmer, she is told that "sometimes these things just happen." Searching for an explanation, Suzy discovers an obscure species of jellyfish that she thinks could have caused her friend's death. It is not long after this horrible incident that Suzy decides it would just be best for her to stop talking. Her parents are worried, but Suzy is too obsessed with learning about jellyfish and proving Franny's cause of death to be bothered.
Suzy is in 7th Grade, but she is lagging behind her peers in maturity a bit. This book explores what it is like to be left behind and also to find one's own path. It also deals with grief and loss and regret. Suzy also shares with us her wonderful science teacher, Mrs. Turton who is exactly the kind of teacher everyone wants. She teaches to teach, to share knowledge, not to fulfill a standard curriculum requirement. I love all the fun facts that Mrs. Turton adds to this book.
I liked that she didn't seem to care about the lesson plan but instead told us interesting things about the world.
Poor Suzy is really struggling at this time in her life, but she's working through it as best she can. She tries to focus on what is important and she isn't afraid to be who she is. She doesn't always make the kinds of decisions she should, some are actually rather questionable, but she's trying. One of my favorite quotes comes when Suzy is attempting something nearly impossible:
Confidence is magic. It can carry you through everything.
I think that may be good advice for all of us.
I really enjoyed this book and I've even already bought it for my niece for Christmas. (Shhhh...don't tell!) If you enjoy middle grade books (I love them!) or if you know someone who does, this book should definitely be in the To Be Read pile.