Mental illness is a theme most often seen in YA or Adult books. It’s a tough topic to convey when your audience is 9-13. No need to worry here as the characters and story will win you over.
Told from the viewpoint of twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning, there are no chapter numbers. Instead each chapter heading describes the time period conveyed in that section. Titles like February 21, Six Months Earlier, The Day After, and many more give you a flavor of what to expect. It’s a perfect way to share the difficult year Zinnia is having.
As the third child with a college age brother, a high school sister, and a younger brother in third grade, Zinnia is in the middle of it all when older bro Gabriel has a car accident leading to a bi-polar diagnosis. He’s sent to a treatment center and the parents request that their children keep this private. Hard to do when it leads to broken friendships and confused feelings.
Heartfelt and bold, you’ll be glad you spent time with Zinny and her family. It’s a hard to put down story that you just might end up reading in one sitting.
Here’s the OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.
It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.
The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK by Barbara Dee
- Relationships with family and friends frame the life of a child in middle school. Barbara Dee is an expert at revealing the conflict inherent with each person Zinny has in her life. Great character arcs abound.
- Hurray for the teachers who are at Zinny’s side. Her science teacher and counselor are true believers in this confused kid.
- The comparison of Zinnia’s troubles to that of life in a fish tank is a brilliant method to provide the connection to healing.
- Young readers will grow in their empathy and understanding of bi-polar disorder. Discussion possibilities are wide ranging.
- A realistic story you won’t soon forget.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Dee is the author of eleven middle grade novels published by Simon & Schuster, including My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including the The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.
(For more about Barbara and her books visit her website)
I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Be sure to leave a comment below if time allows.