the thing about jellyfish
Author: Ali Benjamin
A jellyfish, if you watch it long enough, begins to look like a heart beating.
Suzy “Zu” Swanson knows a lot of things. A lot of things that most people don’t. Like there are 150 million jellyfish stings a year. That’s 411,000 stings a day. 17,000 stings every hour. She also knows that on some technical level, everybody is made of stardust. What she doesn’t know, doesn’t understand, is how Franny Jackson’s life was cut so short before she could make up for that bad thing she did to her. It doesn’t make sense that her best friend is gone.
To make things right, Zu is determined to figure out how this could’ve happen and who the villain is. To do that she forms a plan to travel across the world to figure out the truth about how she died. But, maybe all of the answers are closer than she realizes…
Sometimes when we feel most alone, the world can open up in mysterious ways.
This book marks 2 out of 25 authors, from my New’s Year’s resolution, that I’ve never read from before. I was very excited, too. This is actually Ali’s debut novel and she has a few more on the way and I’m looking forward to them.
I can’t express enough how much this book made me feel. I was incredibly moved to tears, both happy and sad. So much happened on Zu’s journey of grieving the loss of her friend. This story was so spectacularly moving. My heart was deeply moved. The style, the setting, the characters, all of it was perfect.
It’s been a long while since I’ve been in the mind of a kid. So long that I forgot how inquisitive and determined they can be and that’s exactly what Zu is. She’s strong-headed and deeply intelligent. She’s motivated by facts, particularly science. Her way of going about grieving was so interesting because it wasn’t ordinary. I learned so much from her and was greatly reminded how straightforward kids can be.
The setting of this book does follow Zu to school and other places, but mostly we’re in her head. We’re drawn back to flashbacks of important events between her and Frankie as they were growing up, moving to the present. Each flashback clears up the fog of this mystery about how Zu feels so guilty and why she must find a villain to blame. It was incredibly heartwarming and wrenching. Her entire mind is based on facts that she learns more than emotion because she doesn’t understand this kind of loss and it’s experienced it with her firsthand, through her eyes. The entire style of the novel follows the scientific method, which emphasizes how Zu’s thought process works.
During this journey of Zu’s, she meets two others who, unlike everybody else in her class, find her to be very interesting and try to break through her thick exteriors, which was entirely sweet. I seriously could stop the “AWWWWWE!!” that came spewing out of my mouth so loudly. They helped make the story even more relatable. For those who remember how hellish it was in middle school, remember what it was like to feel completely on the outside and understand how special it was to have those couple of friends that could and would sit on the outside with you and be all weird like you, too. It’s how you found your crew, the people who going to be with you through thick and thin and make school bearable.
This book struck me on such a personal level. Like Zu, when I was in seventh grade there was a boy who died. I remember he was in my science class. We weren’t close friends, but the feeling that Zu has throughout the book was the exact same. He was a nice person so I was confused when I found out about his death. It was a complete disillusionment. How can someone so small and young be there one day and not the next? I still think about him from time to time and wonder what it would be like if he were still here.
I couldn’t get enough of this book. I cried, laughed, and was even jumping around with the giggles as I read. I have to say, I truly hope this book comes to the big screen. It’s so special and I really believe that it delivers such a moving message about grieving; that it isn’t easy to understand how a child works through it. Sometimes it takes the Scientific Method.
“During the first three weeks of seventh grade, I’d learned one thing above all else: A person can become invisible simply by staying quiet.” (Zu, p. 7)
“The stars themselves were inside up. We were made of stardust.” (Zu, p. 228)
“Who knows. Maybe everybody’s end isn’t the day they actually die, but the last time anyone speaks to them. Maybe when you die you don’t really disappear, but you fade into a shadow, dark and featureless, only you outlines visible.” (Zu, 278)
“Humans may be newcomers to the planet. We may be plenty fragile. But we’re also the only ones who can decide to change.” (Zu, p. 312)
More to come soon…
P.S. Song today? Fireflies by Owl City.
Thoughts? Tell me in the comment section below.