Sunday, December 27, 2020

Family Drama Unfocused But Still Impactful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With six people in their household, life with the Mannings has always been crazy, loud, and fun.  Twelve-year-old Zinny especially enjoys hanging out with Gabriel, her 18-year-old brother, with whom she always has a great time.  When Gabriel is involved in a serious car accident, it throws their close-knit family for a loop.  Even though Gabriel is not injured, he's taken to a hospital—a facility that treats people with mental illnesses.  According to the doctors, Zinny's beloved brother has bi-polar disorder.  Her parents don't know what to do with the diagnosis, so they make Zinny and her siblings promise not to tell anyone what is going on.  Although she can't quite understand the need for secrecy, she agrees to keep mum.

As the weeks pass, all of Zinny's parents' time seems to be taken up with visiting Gabriel, arguing with the insurance company, and talking to therapists.  Zinny's siblings are dealing with Gabriel's situation in their own ways.  The Manning family feels more fractured than it ever has.  Zinny has so many worries that she needs to share, but she can't let her frustrations out without betraying her parents.  Even though she's been invited to attend a special lunch club/support group at school for kids dealing with various difficult issues, she's not about to share what's going on at home.  The longer Gabriel is in the hospital, the more anxious Zinny feels.  If she can't express all the emotions boiling up inside her she's going to burst.  Can she find a way to get the help she needs?  Will her family ever be whole again?  

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee is a thoughtful novel about mental illness and how it affects all members of a family.  Although Zinny's victimhood gets old, her emotional roller coaster ride in the wake of her brother's diagnosis feels authentic.  Without a solid story goal, though, her tale feels more episodic than focused.  There's no real plot at the center of My Life in the Fish Tank, which makes the whole story feel a little loosey-goosey.  Still, it features likable characters and teaches some valuable lessons about the importance of feeling and expressing one's emotions, being a true friend, getting help when needed, taking the stigma out of mental illness, and dealing with unexpected changes.  I liked it, didn't love it.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for difficult subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. The book sounds very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You've been reading so many MG lately and it's awesome! I've got more to add to my TBR! Great review!

    ReplyDelete

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