Book of the Week: Life in a Fishbowl

Book of the Week: Life in a Fishbowl

life-in-a-fishbowlEvery so often a YA book comes along and really stands out – maybe because of its characters, its unique concept, a great sense of humour, some especially good writing, or a gripping plot. Well, Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos has all that and more.

Told in third person, the book focus on Jackie Stone and her family, who up until recently were perfectly normal. That is until Jackie’s dad, Jared, is diagnosed with cancer and told he has only months to live. Jared quite naturally freaks out, realising that not only will it tear his family apart emotionally but also financially – and that the tumour is already settled comfortably inside his brain.

Jared decides he needs to act, and with his wife Deirdre and daughters Jackie and Megan still completely in the dark about his diagnosis, Jared puts his life (or the four months that’s left of it), up for auction on eBay. Bidders can do whatever they please: ‘slavery, murder, torture, or just pleasant conversation.’ He’s offering ‘a human life, yours to control, yours to own. Bidding starts at one million dollars.

Readers then get a peek into the heads of the several very different people who bid on Jared’s life – a nun, a bored young millionaire, an enthusiastic teen named Hazel and the eventual ‘winner’ – a TV executive. Although eBay pulls the listing because it violates their policies (very true), it gives TV exec Ethan Overbee an idea, and the reality TV show ‘Life and Death’ is born.

With the Stone family’s lives unravelling on live television for the entire world to watch and the producers manipulating and milking their emotions to no end, Jackie has to find strength and support in unexpected places, and start to face the inevitable heartbreak that’s speeding towards her head on.

Although families do not go through quite what the Stones do in Life in a Fishbowl, many of their other experiences with grief and loss are universal. As Glio slowly begins to consume Jared’s memories, we see his cognitive faculties begin to fade for ourselves – he finds himself confused, tired, unsure of how to connect with his wife and daughters in this strange new world they find themselves. He can’t remember what he was going to say, or why he walked into a room. It is beautifully written, and heart-wrenching to read.

LenVlahospictureDeirdre, Megan and Jackie are coming to terms with their grief for the man they’re already losing, and need to make some incredibly difficult choices as the book progresses. The novel touches on some tough issues, but they’re handled with respect, and will prompt discussions with older readers around faith, religion, death and grief.

One of the things that makes this book so distinct is the range of voices. We get to know Jackie and Jared particularly well, but also Sister Benedict, the younger Stone sister Megan, and even Glio (short for Glioblastomas) – Jared’s brain tumour itself. We asked author Len Vlahos about writing the different perspectives, where the inspiration came from, and how he avoids ever writing down to his audience  – click here to read our interview in full.

Life in a Fishbowl succeeds at the many lofty goals it has set itself. It considers the levels our society has reached in regards to TV and technology – when millions watching a man’s last few months as a reality TV show doesn’t seem particularly unrealistic – and the many ways cancer deeply and irrevocably affects people’s lives. It’s intensely moving but also darkly humorous, with genuinely relatable characters you’ll come to love and feel for, and a story you’ll never forget.

 

Click here to learn more or to purchase a copy of Life in a Fishbowl.

Read our interview with author Len Vlahos here, and check out his YA Book List!

 

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Publisher details

Life in a Fishbowl
Author
Len Vlahos
Publisher
Bloomsbury
Genre
Young Adult Fiction
Released
03 January, 2017

Synopsis

Jackie's life wasn't perfect, but at least it was normal. That is, until her dad received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then he went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder. Which turned out to be a TV station. Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie's family as they become a reality TV sensation. Jackie's life spirals out of control just as her dad's starts to run out, and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart.Acidly funny and heartbreakingly sad, Life in a Fishbowl is an exploration of the value of life and what memories mean to us. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness.
Len Vlahos
About the author

Len Vlahos

Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid Eighties to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies, a punk-pop four piece that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records. After the band broke up, he followed his other passion, books. He is the author of The Scar Boys, a William C. Morris Award finalist and a #1 Indie Next pick, and Scar Girl, the book's sequel. Len lives in Denver with his wife and two young sons, where he owns the Tattered Cover Book Store.

Books by Len Vlahos

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