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.Zu is just twelve when her best friend dies. She is told sometimes things just happen but she has learned from her science teacher that all that means is the answer hasn’t been found yet. Franny was an excellent swimmer, how could she have drowned? After a trip to the aquarium, Zu comes to the conclusion that she was stung by a tiny, yet deadly, jellyfish and she embarks on a mission to provide proof of this fact to the rest of the world.
Prepare yourself for jellyfish facts! I was drawn to this book merely for the fact that I am one of Zu’s statistics, someone who has been stung by a jellyfish, although not a deadly one, obviously, as I am still here. I did have an awful reaction to it and it took years for the marks to disappear. So I have a bit of a funny relationship with them, they are amazing creature scientifically and are very pretty when viewed behind glass tanks, but I’d rather not be in the water with them.
The Thing About Jellyfish is aimed at a younger audience than I would usually go for but has a lot to say about loss, grief and guilt. As the story progresses we see how Zu and Franny grow apart, one maturing faster than the other, becoming interested in different things and the strain of peer pressure on a childhood friendship.
Everyone's story is different, all the time. No one is ever really together, even if it looks for a while like they are.
Zu reminded me of a younger Harriet Manners, she loves facts and talking, but not quite so aware of how this makes others see her. Accused of talking too much, after her friend dies she chooses to not talk. I liked this more than Silence is Goldfish because Zu is sensible enough to acknowledge sometimes you have to speak, she is just fed up of small talk (I can relate). Her not speaking doesn’t get her into trouble, other than the fact her parents are concerned about her.
The writing is beautiful and poignant. The chapters start with a lesson learnt from her science classes and the book follows her research into jellyfish as well as flashbacks to her time with Franny, showing the two girls growing up together and apart. By the time I got to the end I wished Zu well for the future, wanting her to grow into a new person with new friends. She’s just got left behind a little but there is hope.
The Thing About Jellyfish is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now in hardback and ebook editons. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.