Life in a Fishbowl

336p. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781681190358.
Gr 9 Up—When Jared Stone is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he decides to sell himself on eBay in order to provide for his wife and teenage daughters. Though the auction is quickly shut down, he attracts the attention of a sanctimonious, power-hungry Catholic nun; a teenage girl hoping to save him; a bored, sociopathic billionaire; and a soulless executive who will pay the family five million dollars in exchange for participating in a reality TV show broadcasting the last few months of the man's existence. The Stones agree to the TV deal, but Jackie, Jared's perceptive 15-year-old daughter, soon goes rogue, using every power at her disposal to expose the manipulative machinations of the television network. The author (The Scar Boys) incisively skewers reality TV, the Internet, celebrity culture, and religion, but he's equally adept at exploring the emotional lives of his characters; the bond between Jared and Jackie is especially rich. Describing the responses and experiences of the tumor, called Glio, who gleefully feasts upon Jared's most cherished memories, Vlahos artfully blends the whimsical and the poignant. While the prose is accessible, the premise (the fear of being unable to take care of one's family) and the focus on so many adult characters make this a candidate for a more mature audience.
VERDICT An achingly funny satire that will appeal more to grown-up consumers of YA and sophisticated teens, especially fans of A.S. King or Aaron Starmer.

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