The Jellyfish Season

Thank you to someone in the Lost and Found who helped me remember this book, and I snatched it up at my library (which has an awesome “young teen” section, btw) Also, mary Dowmng Hahn is quite the kickass author. Because she is able to really depicts young people’s problems and stuff without being condesding.

Anyhoo, Kathleen, who is twelve, family has four girls, and she is the oldest. Her father just lost his job, so they have to sell their house and move in with her aunt and uncle on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. They have to deal with their bitchy fourteen-year-old cousin Fay nd deal with her parents fughting and stuff. Kathleen is awkward and bookish, Patsy is ten and a smart-ass, Mo is the kid and Rosie is the baby. Fay is also secretly dating a twenty-year old sailor named Joe, who they all grow a little bit attached to.

Fay may be the meanest, most obnoxious character I have ever read. maybe even worse than Jessica. Is that possible? She is so obnoxious and immature, and dresses to show off her big boobs. Joe thinks she is 18, and I am not sure how she convinces him. The ironic thing to me is that Kathleen is very self-concious of her tall, thin, bony frame, and is envious of Fay’s “plump” figure. In fact, Fay is mentioned as being “pudgy” often. Maybe it is because of the times? You would think now that being rail thin is what girls want to be. I don’t think you hear so much about girls being mad because they are flat-chested, it’s more that girls are mad because their hipbones are not jutting out above their jeans. it’s all perspective, I guess.

They all hang out at the beach a lot, because Fay is forced to take them, and thay all become attached to Joe. Kathleen is secretly jealous of when Fay makes out with him, and Jow tries to make her feel better by telling her that she really is a pretty girl. If Joe wasn’t dating a 14 year old, he is actually not much of a creep. Finally, Patsy tells Joe Fay’s secret and Fay’s parents find out, and they have a shit fit and Joe makes himself scarce, which is probably a good idea. Fay is distraught and enlists Kathleen into helping her sneak out to see him at a bar, and they are found by the police and get in trouble again. Fay and kathleen start to get a long a little bit. Kathleeon’s father takes a job working for their uncle, and they nd up finding a house nearby. Also, Kathleen’s mother is pregnant and her father starts drinking a lot. But, things seem t look up a little bit in the end.

You know, it is so HARD to snark on ome of these books, becuase this was seriously a good one and one of my favorites when I first read it. I actually got emotional from it and I wish there was a sequel because I wanted to know if everything turned out okay and what happened to Kathleen!

I tink it shows good writing in children’s literature (and other literature for that matter) to not have these forced intoductions and character intros (they were identical in looks, right down to their matching lavelieres. But that is where the similarites ended….) but to give you a sense if a character through their actions and dialogue.

Ah, I love reading books from my past that give me the warm fuzzies and not fits of rage….

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40 thoughts on “The Jellyfish Season

  1. Steph says:

    Does anyone remember “Wait Till Helen Comes”? It’s also by Mary Downing Hahn and was, of course, awesome. It’s about a girl and her bratty stepsister, and the bratty stepsister makes friends with a ghost who tries to drown her.

  2. Fraser says:

    Science writer Carol Tavris wrote once that stick-thin figures are fashionable when girls are supposed to be independent and free (twenties, sixties), plump and bosomy when they’re supposed to be maternal. According to some studies she mentioned (current in the 90s, though I doubt it’s changed any) the current ideal is stick-thin with big boobs, unnatural though that is.

  3. Sara says:

    Thank you thank you thank YOU.
    You have uncovered my very favorite book from childhood which I had been struggling to remember the title of, the significant plot lines, etc. Basically which I was unable to find because my memories of it were so scattered (yet felt so vivid in my heart).

    You do not know the gift you have gifted me!
    this is a big day. 🙂

  4. Diane says:

    I was the one who identified the book!

    Mary Downing Hahn was my fave childhood author, and I loved “Wait ’til Helen Comes” as well! “December Stillness” was hella depressing, though, if anyone remembers that one. It was about a 9th grade girl who tries to befriend a homeless Vietnam vet. I remember thinking it was really deep, but now I’m not so sure.

  5. Sara says:

    Well, I stand corrected. Thank you Diane!
    And, if I didn’t make it clear, I plan to go out and find this book and reread it many times.

    And, yes, who could forget “Wait ’til Helen Comes.” That one was creepy-fantastic!

  6. diana says:

    I WAS SO PSYCHED TO COME HERE AND SEE THE JELLYFISH SEASON COVER. i absolutely loved mary downing hahn as a kid (well, still do) and this was one of my favorites of hers. agree about the body thing-even as a kid, i was mystified on why kathleen was so self-conscious of her stick figure body, which i envied (my body was definitely more like fay’s, but i lacked the confidence and blonde beauty that she did). i also loved patsy.

  7. Mehreen says:

    Ok, so I’ve been trying to catch up on all your posts so I haven’t been commenting, but I saw this today and COULD NOT resist. I LOVED this book! While I read it before I had a figure, looking back, it makes me feel better about having big boobs and being pudgy. I remember Joe had a rose tattoo on his bicep and it looked like the petals fluttered when he flexed. Fabulous book, thanks for reminding me about it!

  8. Katrina says:

    OMG!!! I LOVED this book, with a big, fat L.
    I also remember trying to give a recap to my father when I first read it. He, while attempting to keep a straight face had to explain to me that jellyfish had TENTACLES not TESICLES (I was a bit confused).
    I also liked “Wait till Helen Comes” and all of those other stupid tweenie ghost stories.

    Oh, and I could care less how you spell!!! I am a horrible speller and usually do not notice typos!!!

  9. Molly says:

    I think Mary Downing Hahn is so underrated- I loved Wait ’til helen Comes and The Dead Man in Indian Creek, which is an awesome entry in the coming-of-age-through-finding-a-dead-body-in-the-woods genre.

  10. Club X says:

    Wait Till Helen Comes was one of my favorite books as a kid and I was so excited to find it at my local bookstore over the summer. I read it as soon as I got home lol. I never read the Jellyfish Season but it seems like something I would have liked.

  11. Tiny Pants says:

    I agree with Fraser re:

    “You would think now that being rail thin is what girls want to be. I don’t think you hear so much about girls being mad because they are flat-chested, it’s more that girls are mad because their hipbones are not jutting out above their jeans. it’s all perspective, I guess.”

    Yes, they do all want to be rail-thin, but it’s rail-thin with boobs. In sooo many of the newer series, they actually specify the character’s cup sizes (most notably in Gossip Girl with Jenny, whose main attribute throughout those is her 34DD breasts — at least until she gets her own series, The It Girl, where she’s still got the double-D’s but now is depicted as being just so gosh-darn likeable).

    They are always clear to mention though that Jenny’s not heavy, and other characters sometimes deride her “stripper boobs,” though just as often you get one of them having some reflection along the lines of, “Callie couldn’t help but feel jealous as she looked at her own barely-A cups.” A lot of the other new series do this too — “The A-List” gives a lot of boob mentions (including one character whose endowments are the result of plastic surgery), and even “The Clique” which is a middle-school series, they specify the girls’ bra sizes.

    I guess a perky 34B is the new perfect size six, SIGH!

  12. katie says:

    I remember when Kathleen’s mom was pregnant and she did not know what was going on when everyone was talking about her mom’s “condition”. Come on, with that many kids, how could the oldest child (at 13), did not know what was up.

    When I was 14, I looked about 17 (must have been those C cups). It wasn’t hard to convince people that I was older.

    I can think of so many books that I read that delt with boobs, and there is always a girl (most often thought of or portrayed as slutty) that had boobs bigger than the rest and all of the other girls were jealous. ” Are You There God, it’s Me, Margaret” I think was one of the earliest ones I remember, how they one of their requirments was to do boob-enhancing exercises daily and get training bras. And who ever got their period last lost….

  13. Beth says:

    I never read this one! I guess I was too obsessed with Judy Bloom, the BSC and SW books! Btw- thanks for the link to Judy’s blog! She actually wrote me back a really heartfelt e-mail! Anywhoo, I always hated the big boobed-means-she’s-a-slut theory! However, I DID try the “I must, Imust, I must increase my bust” workout! It didn’t work……

  14. Nancy says:

    I have to say, as being tall, gangly and supposedley ‘stick thin’, as a teenager (which wasn’t very long ago, i’m only 20!) I absolutely envied everyone with boobs and curves. I seem to remember at my school, it was ALL about the boobs and curves. No one wanted to be fat though, but I think there was a happy medium…
    I live in England though and size zero doesn’t even exist here. I really can’t work out what the equivalent size is? Does anyone know? They don’t really have clothes smaller than a 6 here.

  15. Winnie Egbert says:

    I don’t think you hear so much about girls being mad because they are flat-chested..

    That’s b’c we don’t want to draw attention to our flat chests, but we’re crying on the inside (says the 27-yr-old who still carries the boobless neuroses she’s harbored since the sixth grade).

    I know you’re usually much better with spelling and all, so I just want to say don’t drink and blog, my friend.

  16. jms says:

    Nancy, me too. I was extremely thin until I was in my early 20s, and I always wanted to gain weight! None of the most popular girls had my bony arms and legs, and I was convinced that boys ignored me partly because I had such small boobs.

    I could have rocked super-low-rise jeans as a teenager, but in the very early 90s we wore baggy stuff that was hardly flattering to a stick figure (or maybe anyone). Later, when bodysuits and fitted tops were in, I guess I looked pretty cute. Not Wakefield cute, or Taffy cute, but acceptable.

  17. Kristin says:

    I never read this book, but I loved “Wait Till Helen Comes.” It was so creepy. Even the title is ominous, it is great.

    Throwing my two cents into the “characters with big boobs” discussion: I also hated when the busty girls were portrayed as the slutty ones. I was the first girl in my class to really get breasts, and I was always one of the bustier ones, even after others caught up. It’s not as fun as it seems! I always just wanted to be average.

  18. Beth says:

    I feel ya, Winnie! I am 28 and was so excited when I got pregnant with my first son. I thought my boobs were going to magically spring to life and I was going to be Pamela Anderson. Nope! Apparently, it CAN happen that your boobs SHRINK with pregnancy, it’s rare, but happens. Of course, mine went down…..I am almost 8 months preggo with boy #2 and this time my boobs aren’t doing ANYTHING! And to think, I felt sorry for the girl in 7th grade whose boobs were huge and everyone made fun of her! My motto of the day is “Karma is SUCH a bitch!!!”

  19. kris says:

    I was pretty skinny as a kid, and up until the end of high school I had no boobs to speak of. But. I never wanted to have huge boobs. All the girls I knew with reeeeaaaally big ones were often talked about as though they were slutty, when in reality, there was absolutely no connection between promiscuity and boob size. It was just the guys’ wishful thinking.

    I also was in high school in the nineties and I think I missed the super skinny trend (it might have started to make an impact right towards the end there; I don’t remember). Kate Moss and the like weren’t around – we had models like Cindy Crawford to admire – they were all thin, but in a fit way. Not in a weak, sickly, malnourished way. Yech, I don’t get how anyone can think that looks good.

  20. Nancy says:

    *cue wonder years end-title music*
    you know, i’ve learned something today… it doesn’t matter where you come from or how big your boobs are. the grass is always greener. unless you’re a wakefield.

  21. katie says:

    Nancy,
    Totally true. I have always been chesty and wished for small boobs, they are much cuter. Plus, my small-breasted friends dont have notches in their shoulders and can find pretty bras in their sizes everywhere. But they wish for giant boobs.

  22. MaggieCat says:

    “I’d like for one day to wear a button-down shirt.”

    *sigh* Don’t remind me. And who can forget the part where I’d love for one day not to think about the crappy posture that 6 years of middle & high school created, what with the hunched-over-books-against-chest pose I perfected on a daily basis.

  23. Beth says:

    Ok, ok- you have convinced me…….thanks, Nancy-lol! I can wear button down shirts, BUT I look like a line-backer or a bad drag-queen in a halter-top or tank style bathing suit. And those spaghetti strap tank tops with the shelf bra? Don’t make me laugh…….I have 4 plain black sweaters to wear over these shirts……but then I guess everyone has to deal with it in some way or another!

  24. Mehreen says:

    Amen to the big boobied sister! I hear 34C is the ideal size…I hit that in 8th grade and have grown a size since. I think the last one I bought was 38G, do you know how hard it is to get bras that high up in the alphabet! My mother offered a reduction for my hs grad, I should’ve taken her up on it! I should do the reverse of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret: I must, I must, I MUST DECREASE MY BUST!

  25. Roxy says:

    Funny… I am in grade 12 and it’s the super skinny, petite girls who are popular with the guys, no matter what boob size they are as long as they’re skinny. Time change I guess.

  26. anonymous says:

    is there any possibility you were thinking of reading/snarking:

    friends 4ever, by deirdre corey
    the friendship ring series, by rachel vail (might be hard to snark, i thought this series was pretty legit)
    girl talk
    boxcar children (i’m sure that would get pretty good haha)

  27. Anonymous says:

    omg, I “snarked” on this one a while back because MDH was my all-time favorite author as a child.. I’m so glad to see this here!

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