THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

First things first – I have a winner of my new year’s contest:  The Book Owl. Congratulations! I’ll whisk the three books and Starbucks gift card off to you once I get an address.

Now, here’s this week’s MMGM selection – THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH…

I shouldn’t have read this one during the recent holiday season. It’s a sad story and not because of  a scene or two – 99% of the book is a downer. Middle grade seems to be full of these gut wrenching stories. Yes, we live in a world full of death. No way to hide it from kids. But for me I’d rather read something a little more uplifting.

Still though, I’m recommending THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH for readers who feel the need for a story like this. It is so well written.thing-about-jellyfish

Suzy and Franny  have been best of friends since they were five. Fast forward to sixth grade and they have drifted apart. By the time summer hits they aren’t friends any more, especially with Suzy’s rather strange behavior and failed plan to get her friend back. None of it works, and before seventh grade begins a terrible ocean accident claims Franny’s life. She’ll never know how Suzy (Zu) felt about the break-up and how she desperately tried to make it stop. Grief stricken Suzy deals with the loss in a very surprising way.

The story is told in Suzy’s voice. Chapters are devoted to present day but other chapters are interspersed with flashbacks of how the friendship developed, eventually crashed, and the months after Franny’s death. Very effective story telling.


FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don’t just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory–even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.


  1. The chapter are arranged in seven sections – each highlighting a point in the scientific procedure. Such an ingenious way to present the story.
  2. I’ve stared at jellyfish with wonder at aquariums. Never did I realize until reading this book the fascinating background of these creatures. Another perfect hook in telling this tale of sorrow.
  3. Displays the changes many kids experience going from the safety of elementary school to the scariness of middle school. Excellent depiction of the relationships kids leave behind as they form their identity.
  4. The sad tale ends with a smidgen of hope and  earned my recommendation on those final pages.
  5. We all experience grief at some point. I myself have had students, relatives, and friends pass away. This provides some understanding to the process we go through to understand.

FAVORITE LINES: Some hearts beat only about 412 million times. Which might sound like a lot. But the truth is, it barely even gets you twelve years.

AUTHOR QUOTE: Although most of the characters in this book are fiction, the jellyfish experts, including Jamie Seymour, are real. I’ve done my best to honor their work and their achievements by representing them as factually as possible.

See Ali’s author website.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Just click on the Comments word above. You’ll find it right under the title of this post.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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11 Responses to THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Andrea says:

    I enjoyed this book. It is pretty sad, with a glimmer of hope. But I’m sure some kids will be able to relate to it. The facts about jellyfish were interesting!

  2. It is weird how so many middle grade books deal with these intense issues. After just going through my own loss, it may be a little intense for me.

  3. cleemckenzie says:

    I prefer MG’s that are light. I leave the heavier topics for YA+. However, I’ve heard great things about this book, so I’ll probably read it.

  4. Joanne Fritz says:

    Yes, it was certainly sad, this novel, but so well-written and with enough hope at the end that I recommended it on my own blog. It wasn’t quite as much of a downer as LOVE, AUBREY.

    However, I made sure to read something light and fun after finishing THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

  5. I keep seeing this book. It reminds me a bit of a few I’ve reviewed. I prefer uplifting books, but also realize it may be cathartic for some teens who are dealing with grief. I’ve been reading fantasy, just as an escape for me.

  6. diegosdragon says:

    I’ve always had a fear of jellyfish since my childhood. There seemed to be more of them at the beach back then. I got stung a few times and the pain is no picnic. Nice to hear the book is well written, though.

  7. Congratulations to the Book Owl! I will put this on my TBR list. It sounds like a wonderful book, but I will save it for the right time. Right now I don’t need a sad book, but sometimes it’s just the right thing. Thanks for the review.

  8. msyingling says:

    Yep. Too sad for me. Not buying it for my library. There can be sad books that are still hopeful (curious to see what you think of Far from Fair by Arnold), but this was not one of those!

  9. I will be reading this. Contemplating getting it for my collection. Quite a few of my grade seven students would like this…look for books like it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. lwreyes says:

    This is a book that I really want to read! Thanks for urging me to do so.

  11. I prefer uplifting books, too. That said, my first book turned out rather sad. I purposely made the sequel quite cheerful. Still, many people seem to love emotional books that make them cry. Nice review!

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