Welcome to  my stop on the blog tour for Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos! Today, I have an awesome guest post by Len, and a giveaway to share with you! But first, I figured some info about the book was in order, yes? Also, since I loved this book, I would be remiss if I didn’t say a little something about it 😉 

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 336

Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone is a prisoner in her own house. Everything she says and does 24/7 is being taped and broadcast to every television in America. Why? Because her dad is dying of a brain tumor and he has auctioned his life on eBay to the highest bidder: a ruthless TV reality show executive at ATN.

Gone is her mom's attention and cooking and parent-teacher conferences. Gone is her sister's trust ever since she's been dazzled by the cameras and new-found infamy. Gone is her privacy. Gone is the whole family's dignity as ATN twists their words and makes a public mockery of their lives on Life and Death. But most of all, Jackie fears that one day very soon her father will just be . . . gone. Armed only with her ingenuity and the power of the internet, Jackie is determined to end the show and reclaim all of their lives, even in death.

Yes, I made a new header for “super quick thoughts”. It was necessary. Ah hem. Anyway.

Look, this book has so much of everything that I love packed inside. Multifaceted and engaging characters? Check.  Morally complicated situations? Check. Family dynamics, humor amidst tragedy, and an eerily plausible situation… yep, they’re here too. There are quite a few POVs, but it works. I didn’t get super connected to any one character, but I don’t think that was the point. Of course, I cared about Jackie’s plight most, as the main character, but the side characters were really well fleshed out, each with their own firm beliefs (or in some cases, lack thereof). Like I said, it worked.

When I first read the synopsis I thought “this will either be really awesome… or not so much.” Because it is a pretty bold idea, no? Selling the rights to one’s life? But the magic of this book lies in the author making you believe the premise- and even understanding why someone would do it. The moral complexity blew my mind, and had me questioning what I would do throughout the book- how I would react in each character’s shoes.

The author had me caring about each character, and each issue that arose. The tumor itself was even personified, and it was kind of genius. Because I’ll be damned if by the end of the book I didn’t care about the tumor, too.  Life in a Fishbowl explores so many important themes, like family, euthanasia, media deception and intrusion, and ultimately, the lengths we will go to to protect our beliefs and our loved ones. Quite thought provoking while being emotive and entertaining, this was a total win for me.

Life in a Fishbowl – Birth of a Writing Project
Len Vlahos

Back in 2008, this man became an Internet meme:


His name is Ian Usher, and he had put his life up for auction on eBay. Not his actual life, but all his worldly possessions—his house, his car, even his job and his friends. Usher, who had gone through a divorce, wanted to start over.

Internet memes being Internet memes, the story flashed across my field of vision, and I thought, “Hey, what would happen if someone sold their actual life on eBay? What would make them do it? And who would bid on such a thing?”

2008 was also the year I had finished the initial draft of my first book, The Scar Boys. I was figuring out what to do with the manuscript – it wouldn’t publish until 2014– and had started to think about what to write next.

Where The Scar Boys was drawn largely from personal experience (I had dropped out of college to go on the road playing guitar in a punk band in the mid-80s, which forms the backdrop of that book), I knew I wanted my next project to be something out of my comfort zone, something cut from whole cloth. Ian Usher’s eBay listing was the moment of inspiration I had been looking for.

But the questions his listing raised were only a starting point; I needed something more. Enter euthanasia. If you’re not familiar with the word, euthanasia is the idea that people of sound mind have the right to determine when to end their lives, usually due to illness.

I became interested in the topic in the early 1980s when I saw a movie called Whose Life Is It Anyway? (Not to be confused with Whose Line Is It Anyway?) The film tells the story of a sculptor who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a car accident and decides to end his life. It becomes a struggle between the patient on one side, and the hospital and state on the other. I was fascinated by the issue and had always wanted to explore it.

So now I had an initiating event (life for sale on eBay), and a premise (struggle over the right to die). In fact, when I started the first draft of Fishbowl (then called House of Stone), I thought it would be a book mostly, or entirely, about Euthanasia.

But books are funny things. As I started to write my euthanasia story, I found the characters taking me in wildly different directions. Before I knew what was happening, I had a large ensemble cast, a teenage protagonist, and a talking brain tumor. Euthanasia became a catalyst, but took a back seat to the larger themes of familial love and the lie of media.

Much like the story inside Life in a Fishbowl, my journey in writing the book took me down unexpected and dark roads, following twists and turns I never anticipated. Such is life, and so goes novel writing. Go figure.

Happily, it ends well. Or, at least I think it does. You be the judge.

About Len Vlahos

Len Vlahos dropped out of NYU film school in the mid ’80s to play guitar and write songs for Woofing Cookies, a punk-pop four piece that toured up and down the East Coast, and had two singles and one full-length LP on Midnight Records. After the band broke up, he followed his other passion, books. He is the author of The Scar Boys, a William C. Morris Award finalist and a #1 Indie Next pick, and Scar Girl, the book’s sequel. Len lives in Denver with his wife and two young sons, where he owns the Tattered Cover Book Store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour dates:
Jan 3—Swoony Boys Podcast
Jan 4—Ex Libris
Jan 5—Peace Love Books
Jan 6—Reading is Better with Cupcakes
Jan 9—Here’s to Happy Endings
Jan 10—WhoRU Blog
Jan. 11—Dazzled By Books
Jan. 12—It Starts at Midnight
Jan. 13—The Story Sanctuary

So, do share! What do you think about this premise? Would you ever sell your life to the highest bidder- for the right price? (See what I mean about making you think? It does!)

Posted January 12, 2017 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post, Quasi-Review, Review / 14 Comments

14 responses to “Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos: Guest Post & Giveaway

  1. I have been eyeing this book for a while but haven’t read much about it. I love the sound of it and that the characters are so complex. Thanks for the review Shannon. I didn’t enter the giveaway yet – is it international? No worries if it’s not ?

  2. It’s such a bizarre concept Shannon and thought the same as you had, it could be really touching or completely fall apart. I can’t wait to read this one now. We’re probably not that far away from selling our lives to big corporations anyway, so I might get in first. Hopefully I can get that pool before next summer.

    That author photo is epic. He looks grumpy but the horns say he’s looking for a good time.

    Wonderful review Shannon and thanks for sharing the author guest post <3 really enjoyed it.

  3. Ooh that’s an interesting book! I really like knowing the sort of “behind the scenes” ideas about how these books come together. Although I’m not sure how I’d feel about reading a whole book based around euthanasia? I’ll keep it in mind.?

  4. I also thought the tumor being personified was cool. I loved the kind of out-of-the-box-ness of this story, if that makes sense. And yeah, I agree with you about caring for the characters. Good stuff. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the review and the guest post! I’m the last stop on the tour, so my interview with Len Vlahos will be up tomorrow. Yay!!

  5. I loved this book! It was so twisted and dark and spoke to my love for dark storylines in a way no contemporary has– LOL! Glio forever!

  6. Woah, this book sounds pretty intense but I’m glad all the different povs ended up working quite well! I’m so glad that the moral complexity was posed in a way where we could understand it. Lovely review Shannon!

Leave a Reply