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Life in a Fishbowl
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Life in a Fishbowl is a terminal-illness story with a large cast of characters. A few are teens, but most are adults, and the narration goes back and forth between lots of different points of view. Profanity includes "s--t," "f--k," and variations on both of those. Sexual stuff is rare but there's mention of depravity and prostitution without details. The plot asks moral and ethical questions about assisted suicide, the right to die, auctioning people on eBay, and reality shows. Ultimately, it's in favor of the right to die, providing an opportunity for discussing your family's values surrounding this issue. Spoiler alert: A beloved pet is stabbed and dies.
What's the story?
The Stone family starts their LIFE IN A FISHBOWL when dad Jared is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. When he's told that he only has a few months to live, he tries to provide for his family's future by auctioning what's left of his life on eBay. The auction gets shut down, but not before it attracts huge media attention, especially from an up-and-coming network executive who wants to make a reality show about Jared, his family, and his death. Jared's 15-year-old daughter Jackie doesn't want any part of the show, and immediately plots ways to expose the truth of their lives and end the show. Also plotting to intervene are a nun who wants to preserve Jared's life for as long as possible, and one of the world's richest men who wants to buy Jared's life so he can literally hunt for the ultimate prey. In the midst of all the madness, the only thing certain is that time is running out.
Is it any good?
Author Len Vlahos puts a fiendish twist on this terminal-illness story, offering mature readers a lot to think about issues like life coming to an end, reality shows, and lots more. Life in a Fishbowl balances funny and heartbreaking in an effective satire of reality TV that doesn't make light of the end-of-life issues. The many quirky, colorful characters (mostly adults) take turns narrating. Vlahos handles the many points of view well, and the technique adds to the suspense by moving the story along. There isn't really one main character to focus on, but all the characters are memorable. Glio is certainly one of the most brilliantly insidious villains ever. Jackie, Hazel, and Max are easy to relate to and root for. Have a hankie nearby for the bittersweet ending.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the right to die as it's presented in Life in a Fishbowl. Did reading the book change your mind about this issue? Why, or why not?
Is the use of profanity realistic? How much is OK in books, movies, games, etc.?
Do you think the way the reality show is put together is realistic? How true-to-life is what you see on those shows?
- Author: Len Vlahos
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
- Publication date: January 3, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.