Len Vlahos’ Life In A Fishbowl is an unexpected find. The reality show horror angle drew me in, but the message kept me reading. If you are up for a contemporary YA with some real, smart, thought-provoking social commentary, you should give this book a go.
Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone is a prisoner in her own house. Everything she says and does 24/7 is being taped and broadcast to every television in America. Why? Because her dad is dying of a brain tumor and he has auctioned his life on eBay to the highest bidder: a ruthless TV reality show executive at ATN.
Gone is her mom’s attention and cooking and parent-teacher conferences. Gone is her sister’s trust ever since she’s been dazzled by the cameras and new-found infamy. Gone is her privacy. Gone is the whole family’s dignity as ATN twists their words and makes a public mockery of their lives on Life and Death. But most of all, Jackie fears that one day very soon her father will just be . . . gone. Armed only with her ingenuity and the power of the internet, Jackie is determined to end the show and reclaim all of their lives, even in death.
Ultimately, this is such a satisfying book about the little guys (and gals, in this case) versus The MAN. I am so glad I stuck with it. While I initially found the huge list of narrative perspectives annoying, and I wasn’t sure if I was okay with the humor or the Debbie Downer of a main character, I eventually found myself engrossed in the epic battle this story follows. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so I’ll just say that you have to trust the author on this one. He deftly weaves all these perspectives into a master story that will leave you satisfied. There will be tears, but there will also be fist pumps. The social issues are pretty heavy – cancer, privacy and media, euthanasia – but they are countered by strong themes about love, friendship, and good people doing the right thing. It won’t be the book for everyone, but it is certainly one I think many of my high school readers will enjoy. Some mature language, but it is appropriate for grades 9+. Adults readers of YA will appreciate it as well.
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.