cover image My Life in the Fish Tank

My Life in the Fish Tank

Barbara Dee. Aladdin, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3233-8

Twelve-year-old Zinny Manning loves her three siblings’ loud banter, especially from her usually affable older brother, Gabe. But Gabe’s recent rebellious behavior has Zinny baffled and even frightened. When he is in a car accident, her parents reveal that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suggest that the family keep it a secret while Gabe receives treatment in a mental facility. Almost overnight, Zinny’s once close-knit family grows distant and quiet, leaving her uncertain about what to tell her friends. With the help of an empathic teacher and a lunchtime group meant for kids struggling with similar challenges, Zinny grapples with her feelings about her brother and the societal stigmas attached to bipolar disorder. With emotional detail, Dee (Halfway Normal) captures Zinny’s turmoil, particularly through flashbacks of affectionate interactions with her brother and current school scenes that reveal Zinny’s anger and uncertainty. Though Dee’s message—that mental illness need not be stigmatized—comes through clearly, the story manages to avoid feeling didactic through lunchtime conversations that are particularly relatable. With sensitivity and skillful storytelling, Dee portrays a difficult subject in an engrossing, accessible way. Ages 9–13. [em]Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Sept.) [/em]