My Life in the Fish Tank
Barbara Dee
ISBN:  978-1-5344-3233-8
Aladdin  (Simon & Schuster Children’s)
320 pages

Who hasn’t felt like their life was in a fish tank? I have felt like this every once in awhile. ‘My Life in the Fish Tank’ written by Barbara Dee is a young Mental illnessadult novel about how a character deals with a mental illness.  The main character named Zinny . She learns many right and wrong ways of coping with mental illness issues that occurs in her family.  Zinny has two friends Kailani and Maisie. They are typical middle school students, who also try to help in a way.

One day after a ride with her brother Gabriel she notices something is not quite right. Zinny begins to wonder and many familial rituals and routines seem to be delayed for some reason.  Zinny tries to keep everything to herself and tries to take up the slack around the house without asking for help.  Her parents seem to find ways to cope as does her sister and younger brother.  Zinny is alone in her search even with helping her science teacher and answering a request from a guidance counselor at school.

 Barbara Dee  has written a middle school novel that describes all the various feelings that Zinny seems to exhibit when a family member is suffering from a mental illness.   One question she seems to seek is where do I go to seek help to answer my questions.  During the story Barbara seems to be Zinny and has her seek help in her own ways and means.

Mental illness

is nothing to be ashamed of . It just has to be worked out to find an appropriate answer to everyone’s needs and wants.  She has written passages and very short chapters that remind me of journaling .  The cover art of the novel describes and shows perfectly what someone feels like when dealing with a mental illness one way or another.  We all ask for help in different ways like Zinny does.

This would be a very good book for counselors and social workers to use in a group setting . It would help promote discussion with various kinds of issues.  Counseling and social work students could use the book as a supplement in learning how to form a group and what kind of learning could be done using this book.  ‘My Life in a Fish Tank’ is a novel that will help teach about mental health issues and that it does not have to be stigmatizing to anyone.


When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.

It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.


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