Thursday, December 24, 2015
The Thing About Jellyfish
Grief is very personal. We lost a very dear family member a few weeks ago, and I noticed a very different response among my own children. My 9 year old was very demonstrative, crying often. I found her crying a few days after the funeral, asked her what was wrong, and was slightly surprised to find her still crying so much. My 13 year old was much more private, and only shed a few tears in public, yet I know her love for our lost loved one was just as great as my younger daughter's.
In A Thing About Jellyfish, grief takes over Suzy's life. After her former best friend dies, she completely shuts down, refusing to talk to anyone, even her family. She becomes obsessed with jellyfish, searching for a reason beyond drowning as the cause of Franny's death. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Suzy and Franny were not on good terms, and this makes Franny's death even more traumatic for Suzy. Suzy and Franny were best friends all through elementary school. However, when they get to middle school, things change. Franny becomes friends with new girls, and Suzy does not fit in. Then things get really, really ugly. In the present, Suzy has to give an oral presentation, although she isn't talking. Her grief is so deep that she makes a really risky decision.
I felt a lot of empathy for Suzy because I had a dreadful middle school experience. In 6th grade, I had two close girlfriends, but we were constantly fighting. I ended the year not being friends with either of the girls, and deciding I wasn't meant to have friends. Then in 8th grade, I was bullied for months until I stood up for myself and fought back, landing in ISS (in school suspension) for my efforts. Although I'm a natural extrovert, middle school traumatized me so much that in many ways, I remained an introvert for the rest of my public school education, often hiding in books. I really worry about the same thing happening to my girls. Fortunately, my oldest child has had no problems in middle school. My second child is a social butterfly who makes friends easily. Sadly, if anyone is going to have problems, I am afraid it will be my youngest daughter. I hope to be wrong. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
I think that The Thing About Jellyfish is one of my favorite books of 2015. Benjamin uses this story to discuss issues that I believe that all readers can relate to. Suzy is clearly an awkward character who does not have many friends. I think that we have all felt awkward at some point in our lives. For me that awkwardness occurred in elementary school. I was a tomboy so, I was too boyish to play with the girls and too girlish to play with the boys. I only had one friend and if they missed school I had no one to play with. Benjamin also discusses changing relationships in this book.
I think we have all experienced a time where we lost of friend due to a change in their behavior. One day you are besties and then the next your not. This happens to Suzy in
the story and it also happened to me. I had a best friend all the way through middle school but when we got to high school things changed. She was completely different. I, like Suzy, tried to fit in with her new group of friends for a little while but I just did not fit in. We eventually stopped being friends and only waved at each other in passing.
Benjamin also discusses grief in this book. I agree with Sara that everyone grieves differently. Suzy uses her grief to withdrawn from the world. Then her grief seems to turn into a determination to learn as much as she can about Jellyfish. The parts about the jellyfish and the jellyfish experts were my favorite parts of the book. I felt like I was reading nonfiction inside a fictional story. I appreciate the fact that Benjamin used information about real jellyfish experts in her book. Overall, this is an excellent book and one you should take the time to read. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.