Friday 18 March 2016

The Thing About Jellyfish, Ali Benjamin

Pages: 352
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 10th March 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Suzy is twelve 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 she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just five. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realises 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 nothing at all. But it’s also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

The Thing About Jellyfish is one of the most beautifully written debuts I've read in a really long time.

Suzy’s sharp intelligence and unique way of looking at the world make The Thing About Jellyfish a real joy to read. She spends a lot of time in her head – mulling over her relationship with Franny and learning as much about jellyfish as she possibly can. There’s a lingering sadness throughout the novel as Suzy reveals the decline of her friendship with Franny and the last moments she shared with her before she died. The pain of losing a friend in middle school as cliques form and Franny drifted away was palpable.

In the wake of losing Franny, Suzy has decided to stop filling space with small talk, only speaking when it means something. I’ve read about elective mutism in a fair few YA novels, but this felt very different to what I've read before. Suzy wasn’t completely silent and she hadn’t been quiet for very long, but it was still pretty all-encompassing in Suzy’s narration.

Ali Benjamin’s debut is a gorgeously written look at loss, friendship, family and the hardships of growing up.

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.


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