We read this book for my book club, and immediately I knew that this needed to be read in the classroom. I read it in two days...it has large print ;)
This is a wonderful book for middle schoolers, because the protagonist is a 12/13 year old girl. Any young girl will be able to relate to this story, and the boys may gain some insight and a different perspective of middle school life.
The story focuses on our protagonist, Suzy, as she navigates the waters of middle school, and all that life throws at her. She loses her best friend, in more ways than one, and begin a road to self-discovery while trying to find out how her friend died. It's not a murder mystery, it's not gory or scary; she uses her odd talents and brains [what the kids make fun of her for] to research the powers of jellyfish and their deadly stings [how she thinks her friend died]. She is also struggling with her parents' divorce and her desire to fit in at school. Through all this, she learns the importance of being herself [but I love that it's not "cheesy".] All of these challenges hit home in one way or another for 95% of our students.
What I love about this tale is that it's not an after school special where everything turns out ok...some stuff does, but not everything. I like that because that's real life; it doesn't give false hope to the pre-teen readers, but does show them various ways to deal with life's issues.
How I Would Teach This Novel:
I would approach this book as a Lit Circle choice, or an outside reading project that would work well with the SmashBook Novel Study assignment. While you could definitely teach this novel to your class, I do think it appeals more toward girls. [I will be creating a unit for this novel in the near future]
- There are several literary elements to focus on: Flashbacks, Foreshadowing, Irony, Structure, Similes, Metaphors, etc.
- Great character development
- Not a whole lot of vocab to learn, which allows students to focus on what the writing is saying
- Several themes to follow
I believe this novel should be read, by whatever means necessary, by all middle schoolers. Read it, and you will see why :)