Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

Life in a Fishbowl was a totally unexpected read for me. I'd seen it mentioned on a few 'must read' lists, but I started with lots of 'bleh, another Internet drama/reality TV drama book.' No offense to Vlahos, I just get skeptical of the 'oh-no-the-Internet!' YAs. Surprisingly, it was far more than that. While a bit jumbled with lots of moving pieces that I'm not sure always fit together, it was a fascinating read!

Summary: Jackie and Megan are two sisters, who like many, have their disagreements. For the most part, they put aside their drama when they find out their father (Jared) is dying of a brain tumor and has auctioned his life off to the highest bidder online to help leave his family with financial peace. While at first fearing the nefarious people who want to hunger-games-style fight-to-the-death/human-hunt with Jared, the reality TV show they end up with ($5 million deal) ends up having a whole slew of complications of its own. As Jackie and Megan band together with their mother (Deirdre), they learn who true allies are - and there are lots of bizarre subplots that somehow, while entirely outlandish, seem totally possible in this world Vlahos' created.

Overall: Interesting commentaries on Reality TV, Social Media, Right to Die Movements, Terminal Illnesses, Internet/Gaming Culture, Religious Institutions, Family, Privacy, Community - but it's almost as though too many things prevent you from really focusing in on any one area. Would be a great selection for readers loving high-energy, drama filled pieces.

"D, I'm going to die. No matter what we do, I'm going to die. Let's at least cash in." (98)

Twists of intrigue: (Spoilers coming... just a friendly warning)  

-Glio: giving his tumor a narrative POV was a fascinating narrational tactic - and interesting way to breathe more characterization and emotional pull into the story. Still not entirely sure how I feel about it being used so frequently, it almost lessened the impact because of the frequency- "Glio understood that this was one of Jared's most treasured memories. Each time his host recalled it, the memory would fill his host with feelings of joy, warmth, and stability. Glio felt almost guilty as he absorbed every frame of it into his growing mass." (159)

-Max: Jackie's Russian Penpal: the mix of catfishing-deceit and hero-esque qualities of Max leave me confused. I would almost have rathered it just be Jackie and Hazel - Jackie doesn't need a hero, especially one who is lying to her. I'm glad when they finally met up, it was platonic. The editing help - awesome! The catfishing- still weird.

-Sister Benedict: Her vanity, hubris, and holier-than-thou character was astounding. I'm not sure what to think of her - and her exile to Alaska in the end - and her issue with the 'new age' cardinal - weird side train.

-Ethan Overbee and Sherman Kingsborough: Money hungry executive, and spoiled-rich-boy tropes to the nines, were their points to be fifty shades of gray-esque? Gets really weird here. And Sherman's murder side bend, goodness gracious! How many crazy people does this novel need?

-Hazel & Jason: The two characters that anchor the heart of the book for me. I'd love to see them featured more if any second novels are happening continuing with Jackie & Megan's stories.

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