It's happening again! Books with similar themes end up on my list right next to each other.
The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is narrated by Suzy who can't believe that her oldest friend could just drown. "These things happen" is NOT an acceptable explanation. Suzy becomes convinced that a rare jellyfish is responsible for Franny's death.
Suzy is a fact person who inundates the reader with math and facts about jellyfish and the people who study them. But this book also chronicles the all too frequent trauma that occurs when one person outgrows another - as Franny outgrows Suzy by the end of 6th grade. This relationship break makes Franny's death so much harder for Suzy to accept.
Her search for someone who can understand the horror of jellyfish - as she sees it - leads Suzy to start out on a dangerous and possibly illegal journey.
Her parents, her older brother and an unexpected friend help Suzy to move into a life without Franny.
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff Ok. In fifth grade, Trent killed someone during an ice hockey game. Total accident. Trent's parents and older and younger brother seem to think Trent should move on. Trent's Dad, especially, has little patience for Trent's surly attitude. Dad's new wife is expecting their first child any time now. So, it was an accident. Get over it already. (Not actual words from the book.)
Trent reacts to the guilt and the anxiety he feels by making sure he gets into trouble at school, and with his Dad. He even refuses to enter into prank wars with his little brother.
Luckily, Fallon, a girl at school with a noticeable facial scar befriends Trent after she peeks into his Book of Thoughts and sees the pictures he draws there - pictures of what the boy he killed might be doing at that very moment. Fallon wants Trent to draw a picture for her.
How Trent manages to make things worse and then how he manages to make them better - with the help of sympathetic outsiders - makes an engrossing and emotional read.
These books have totally different styles, despite their similarities - see below. Jellyfish is awash with facts and musings on facts - the type of book that will lend itself to STEM curricula. But there is an immediacy to Suzy's pain, even as she carefully plans her science report and her journey, and her need to find explanations for her friend's death.
Sun, on the other hand, concentrates on Trent's emotional struggles. Trent speaks in a matter-of-fact voice, referring to the accident almost casually. And all the time he is seething and unable to see that he is till a worthwhile human being.
Here is a list of other similarities:
New friends: Both of the new frends have problems of their own that they seem to have overcome.
Older brothers: Aaron - yeah, both of them.
Nice teachers: Suzy likes her science teacher right away. Trent hates everyone but his homeroom teacher really is pretty old.
Read 'em both, except you might want to read other books in between. OK?