The Thing About Jellyfish: a review


“Not everything makes sense, Zu. Sometimes things just happen.” (pg. 17, The Thing About Jellyfish).

Yes, indeed, sometimes things do just happen. 

The New York Times Bestseller, The Thing About Jellyfish is the bestselling debut of acclaimed author Ali Benjamin. Quoting Publisher’s Weekly’s starred review, “Benjamin’s novel is a shining example of the highs and lows of early adolescence.” 

The novel tells about the friendship of two best friends – Suzane Swanson (Suzy, cut short) and Franny Jackson. It was one day, that the worst news came to Suzy, that her best friend, a very good swimmer drowned in a beach in Maryland. The tragedy of Franny’s death makes Suzy stop talking. If so something important, she  worked out with some ‘small talk’. Suzy’s mother was unhappy to see her daughter’s sorrow state, who was stepping into one-step depression. As a cure to the wound, decides to take her to a doctor to whom ‘she could talk’. But she hardly did.  

But one good thing comes to her life, and that was her science teacher: Mrs. Turton; when she starts her 7th grade at Eugene Field Memorial Middle School, South Grove, Massachusetts. The first day itself was itself quite pleasant because of her. Suzy began spending the lunch hour with Mrs Turton, discussing science. Mrs. Turton gives her class an assignment to research about any scientific topic which was to be presented in the class, and Suzy chooses the Jellyfish.

Few weeks ago, she goes for a school excursion to a museum, where, in an aquarium, she saw a breed of jellyfish called Irukandji. Suzy believes that it was the Irukandji stings that killed Franny Jackson. One jellyfish sting can kill anyone in an instant. And this is where the seed of The Thing About Jellyfish is sowed. 

And that is how, she goes deeper and deeper into her research, analyzing her findings in her very possible way dissolving into her young teenage brain. Plus, a time comes when she even tries to flee to Australia to meet an irukandji expert or what Suzy called a “jellyologist”, Dr Jamie Seymour to share her feelings, questions, and clear her doubts; because she thought no one else could. For this, she does many bad things too, like stealing money from her mom’s purse, but a thought makes the reader feel not much bad about it, because at the end Suzy’s brother’s friend Rocco says to Suzy that “You know, there are worse misdeeds than those that are done for a higher purpose” (page 304).

The tale goes on like this, and finally she couldn’t go on her expedition because she didn’t have a visa. 

This novel touched my heart. It tells very efficiently, about early adolescence. Adding upto how a teen mind is always irritated and doubtful about everything. 

Our mental health is very important for our overall well-being. Just be happy, you don’t always need a reason. Many people are fighting their own never ending battles, we never know about. Be kind. You’ll never regret it. 

“The thing about jellyfish” will absorb you with the simple fact that, even after a hard heart break; with time, every wound heals. Let go and step ahead. There are bad times, but at the end there are good ones as well. Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday, isn’t it? So, have a sip of every moment. To keep your life’s balance, you must keep moving. 

Change is inevitable, but we must learn to accept it, just as Suzy learnt at the end. 

The book was crisp, giving a bite of many things together. A lot of science facts, my favourite, and the coolest I found was this – “there are 60,000 miles of blood vessels in a single human body, enough to circle Earth two and a half times.” These astounding facts drives the reader all throughout. Every chapter started with a different kind of perception, which sometimes rather seemed depressed. It battles and ends with one of the greatest truths of life — “Somehow, that fact – that sometimes things do just happen seemed like it might be the scariest and saddest truth of all” (page – 302).

What really makes me love this book so much is because of the character of Mrs. Turton, she is so much like my 7th grade Science teacher – Mrs Miron, at Roth Junior High School, Henrietta, New York. Mrs Miron was as cool and generous as Mrs Turton. Being in her class was always fun, just as it was for Suzy in Mrs Turton’s. Jellyfish is a wonderful combo of roles of a teacher and a mother, science and friendship and a lot more self learning. I am looking forward to reading Ali Benjamin’s The Next Great Paulie Fink soon! Jellyfishes, you have a great novel in your honour. Embrace it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tamara Raza

Tamara Raza

Tamara Raza is a 9th grade student of Kendriya Vidyalaya Tezpur University, India.