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.
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.”
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 Renée 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)
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!