The Children’s Book Review | January 3, 2017
Written by Len Vlahos
Age Range: 12-16
Paperback: 325 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury (2017)
What to Expect: Family Sitcom, Multiple Narrative, Motivational and Inspirational Storytelling
The multiple narrative is one of my favorite forms of storytelling, and Len Vlahos uses it skillfully in Life in a Fishbowl. This fresh new take on teen literature tells a single story from the perspective of multiple lives, highlighting the power of storytelling as a means of bringing people together and exploring common ground. The story is both motivational and inspirational, as well as being touchingly humorous.
When Jackie’s father, Jared Stone, is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, shy and sensitive Jackie watches the life she knows and loves starting to crumble. However, it is not only her father’s increasing mental abstraction and the heart-wrenching prospect of his immanent loss which causes the upheaval: more than any of these factors, it is his unprecedented plan to ensure his family’s financial survival which will change his family’s lives forever. Worried about leaving his family in debt and financial hardship, Jared Stone (influenced, no doubt, by the tumor’s alteration of his rational capacities) has put his remaining life up for auction on eBay. Bidders appear seemingly from nowhere, spanning the gamut from bored millionaires to nuns, business tycoons to teen gamers. Each has his or her own agenda to fulfil, using Jared Stone’s remaining moments of life as a crucial game-piece – if they can afford the escalating bidding war. As Jackie and her family are exposed to the overwhelming world of stories and perspectives revealed by her father’s decision, they learn more about wach other and themselves, and – most importantly – the acquire the tools to help them come to terms with his approaching death.
Told from the perspective not only of Jackie and her family, but also through the voices of the many bidders and even the tumor (“high-grade glioblastoma multiforme”), this novel is a rollercoaster ride through human nature. Mixing pathos and humor, it is both enjoyable and inspirational to read.
About the Author
Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid ’80s 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.