Reader Reviewed The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About Jellyfish

Written by Ali Benjamin

11+ readers   Debuts of the Month   9+ readers   UKLA 2017   eBooks   
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The Lovereading4Kids comment

Longlisted for the UKLA 2017 Book Award and October 2016 Debut of the Month Twelve year old Suzy’s confusion following the death of her best friend fuels this roller-coaster debut novel. When Franny drowns in a freak accident during the school holiday Suzy finds herself dealing not with the death of her best friend as her mother thinks but with the far more devastating loss of their friendship sometime earlier. Suzy copes by becoming electively mute and by constructing a story to explain what happened to Franny. Moving back and forth between Suzy’s obsessive behaviour after Franny’s death as she finds out everything she can about the lethal jellyfish who is, she is sure, responsible for it and, the last few months before Franny’s death when the friendship unravelled is clever as she loses Franny to the cool set.

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can read their full reviews here.

  • Cajsa Jonsson, age 10 - 'A brilliant book about a girl on a mission to find out how her best friend mysteriously drowned. The story is a brilliant mix of fiction and non-fiction. Suzy is a girl who never gives up on dreams.'
  • Emily Pitfield, age 11 - 'An amazing book, full of drama and emotion.  I really felt for Suzy and wanted to follow her touching story until the very end.'
  • Verity, age 10 - 'Tragic, funny and exciting. I always wanted to read the next page.'
  • Poppy Milburn, age 10 - 'Enchanting!  This story is hard to put down, you just want to carry on and on.....'
  • Alice East, age 11 - 'What I loved about this book was that is showed who a true friend was and how to be a true friend.'
  • Sadie, Yr 8, Great Torrington School - 'It is quite sad, but covers the stages of grief perfectly-I think this book will be a bestseller, and I hope that Ali Benjamin receives the praise she deserves for this brilliant book.'
  • Liam, age 13 - 'Suzy cannot believe the fact that her best friend or former best friend has drowned! In defiance, she decides to not speak unless it is essential. '
  • Sam Harper, age 11 - 'A really unique book with a very different story and style of writing. It really sets itself apart and I absolutely loved it.'
  • Charlotte Rosevear, age 12 - 'The Thing About Jellyfish is very good, as it’s all about how Suzy doesn't talk after her friend Franny dies, but Suzy can't accept that Franny died from drowning.'
  • Bella Ettery, age 13 - 'I couldn’t put it down once I started and loved the short chapters and truthfulness of the book...great for fans of David Almond as it’s similar in style.'
  • Jamie, Someries Junior School - 'Everyone believes she drowned, but Suzy knows that's impossible. Franny was such a great swimmer! Stubborn, lonely and frustrated by not knowing the truth, she decides to find out what happened.'
  • Ben Thorpe, age 11 - 'This is a thought-provoking book about the grief and guilt that a 12 year old feels when she loses someone close to her, and how she learns to cope.'
  • Heather Greenan, age 12 - 'A gripping read!'
  • Verity Corrick-Gough, age 11 - 'This book is the best I have EVER read! I couldn't put it down. I loved it more then any book I have read.'
  • Matthew Kirk, age 10 - 'This book is an ok book however it took a while to get to the point.'


The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

It's peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person's absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.

Suzy is 12 when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it's not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just 5. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there? Suzy realizes that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn't just drown - she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy's logical mind than a random drowning - cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death. Suzy's journey to acceptance is quiet - she resolves to either say something important, or say nothing at all. But it's also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

An astonishing debut novel about a twelve year old girl coping with the death of her best friend. Perfect for fans of Wonder, Counting By 7s and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.


A painful story smartly told, Benjamin's first solo novel has appeal well beyond a middle-school audience Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

A moving portrayal of loss and healing Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Benjamin explores the heartbreaking subject of grief in the young with dreamy, meditative and elegiac prose The New York Times

This is a heartbreakingly touching debut about friendship, loss, fear and love that is funny, clever and beautifully written Daily Mail

[an] intense and nuanced tale of friendship, revenge and youthful resourcefulness Guardian

One of the most beautifully written debuts I've read in a really long time -- Sophie So Many Books, So Little Time

About the Author

Ali Benjamin has written for the Boston Globe Magazine, Martha Stewart's Whole Living, and Sesame Street. Ali is a member of the New England Science Writers. When not working, Ali wrangles children, drinks too much coffee, sometimes runs, hangs out with friendly dogs, gazes at electron microscopy images of bugs, and teaches kids about storytelling and writing. She serves scrambled eggs for dinner far too often.

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Book Info


352 pages
Interest Age: From 9


Ali Benjamin
More books by Ali Benjamin

Author's Website


Macmillan Children's Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan

Publication date

22nd September 2016




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