Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Book Review Club (December 2015)


Welcome to the last Book Review Club meeting of 2015! It's been a great year....full of good books and wonderful reviews. Books make the best gifts. If you're looking for ideas....check out our current and past reviews.
Happy Holidays!
THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH 
by Ali Benjamin (debut, middle grade)

I decided to end the year with a review of The Thing About Jellyfish, one of the best middle grade novels I read in 2015.  I'm in good company; many people loved this book. It was a NYT bestseller and National Book Award finalist and got starred reviews from the usual suspects (Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist, etc.)

The Thing About Jellyfish is the story of 12-year-old Suzy "Zu" Swanson as she deals with her parents' divorce, the loss of a friendship, and the death of her friend. A chatterbox, Suzy chooses to stop talking, and there's a nice thread running through the book about communication.

Suzy and Franny Jackson have been friends for years. But they're very different. Always have been. Suzy is bright, interested in all things science, socially awkward.  Franny struggles academically, but fits in well with others. You can imagine what happens when they hit middle school.  Franny joins a popular clique and ditches Suzy. There's a particularly poignant scene in the school cafeteria when Suzy tries to eat lunch at the same table as Franny and her new friends. It hurt to read. The author captured the awkwardness and humiliation so well that I was cringing. I pulled into a parking lot to finish the chapter.  (I was listening to the book on audio). Anyway, the girls' friendship spirals downward and ends on a very sour note. And then Franny dies.

This book is full of lots of interesting scientific facts, especially about the Irukandji jellyfish. (I'm guessing the author enjoyed all the research. I know I would've!) Suzy becomes convinced this transparent, venomous jelly was  responsible for Franny's death.  Suzy wants a scientific explanation for why Franny, an excellent swimmer drowned in a calm ocean. Continuing with the scientific theme, The Thing About Jellyfish is organized into seven parts, like the scientific method.

And here's a quotation from the book, just to showcase the exquisite writing:
“In the end Suzanne, it's a gift to spend time with people we care about. Even if it's imperfect. Even if that time doesn't end when, or how, we expected. Even when that person leaves us.” 

Highly recommended.

Dear FCC: Thank you for checking in on me. I bought this book, fair and square. 

 And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!

MIDDLE GRADE/YOUNG ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS

Stacy Nyikos: HUSKY by Justin Sayre (MG)

Sarah Laurence: THE WRATH and THE DAWN by RenĂ©e Ahdieh (YA)

Stacy of the Cat's Meow: NIGHTFALL by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (YA)


ADULT FICTION BOOK REVIEWS 

Linda McLaughlin: THE SISTERS WEISS by Naomi Regan

Patti Abbott:  BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton (mystery)

Rob Costello: MONICA NEVER SHUTS UP by A.S. King (short stories)


NONFICTION REVIEW

Ray Potthoff: BLACK EARTH: THE HOLOCAUST AS HISTORY and WARNING
                       by Timothy Snyder (history)




Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!



11 comments:

Rose said...



This sounds like a great book for young readers, dealing with some very relevant issues. Thanks for hosting once again, Barrie, and have a happy holiday season!

Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds like an excellent book, Barrie, though perhaps a little too serious for my current mood. Thanks for organizing all of us again this year. Have a wonderful holiday season.

Stacy said...

Sounds like a good book. I wonder if the 11-year-old might like it. I've picked out her Christmas books, but she has a birthday in February.

Barrie said...

Rose, it does deal with relevant issues. And I like the added bonus of the scientific facts.

Barrie said...

Linda, yes, it is a pretty serious book. Happy Holidays back at you!

Barrie said...

Stacy, this book is definitely appropriate for 11 year olds. Let me know if you end up getting for her and what she thinks of it.

Sarah Laurence said...

Since you and my crit partner adored Jellyfish, I will get this book even though I don't usually read MG. Thanks for hosting and sorry about the code mishap.

Barrie said...

Sarah, no worries re the code. Look at my track record!!!:) I do think you'd like Jellyfish.

Cloudbuster said...

I've been wanting to read this one. Thanks for the excellent review. It sounds like a very moving book.

Barrie said...

I think "moving" is the perfect adjective for this book, Cloudbuster.

Jennifer A. Jilks said...

Ladies and gents. I have missed out on this month. I'm flat on my back, sick, being cared for my by hubby with cancer! Seriously!!!
Payback time!
I have sent him to the library with a list of books from some of your (adult) novels.
I want to thank all of you, including Barrie!
I'm into page 500+ of the 700+ The Goldfinch. Lord knows who reviewed, but someone did! I save the cover page images of those that I like and emailed it to my husband. He went off to the library for me.

I would be going nuts if I wasn't able to read!
cheerio!