• Clarissa Laws

#BOOKSHELFIE: THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH

This was another book recommendation that I stole from Reese Witherspoon's list. It tells the story of Suzy Swanson, a middle school girl who is described on multiple occasions as more than a little bit socially awkward, and how she lost her best friend Franny in an accidental drowning. Suzy an Franny's first meeting took place at the neighborhood pool where Suzy was stunned by Franny's prowess in the water, and thus, Suzy refuses to believe that her death, which took place in calm waters, was a drowning. Instead, she convinces herself that a tiny, venomous jellyfish must be to blame for the death of her friend. The plot is focused on Suzy's quest to prove the role of the Irukandji jellyfish in Franny's untimely death, while also telling the story of a young girl struggling with grief and her parents' seemingly futile efforts to help her cope. You also learn a heck of a lot more about jellyfish than you probably ever wanted to know.


Because the story is told from the perspective of a 12 year old, the prose is simplistic and at times feels a little bit too juvenile for an adult reader. I think the book had some real potential to dive into the very complex subject of grief, but it spent significantly too much time on Suzy's coping mechanism, the jellyfish themselves, and too little time on the loss that she and by proxy her parents were actually coping with. I quickly grew tired of paragraph after paragraph of information about different types of jellyfish and the people who study them. The book developed very slowly, and the final epiphany that brought the plot to the neat wrap up that we all knew was coming was rushed and predictably sappy, culminating in an airport reunion the likes of which one would typically catch at the end of a Hallmark movie.

This book was intended to be for the young reader but also tell a tale that would resonate with an adult audience, and the effort to do so felt contrived. Ultimately, it's a sweet, forgettable story that will leave readers no worse for the wear but utterly unchanged.