My Life in the Fish Tank

When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother, Gabriel, is diagnosed with a mental illness, their 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, and 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.— Even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.

The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. But when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology program for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel— and really, her whole family—still needs her help?

From the acclaimed author of Maybe He Just Likes You and Halfway Normal comes a powerful and moving story of learning how to grow, change, and survive.

Coming September 15, 2020


Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Hardcover
ISBN 978-1-5344-3233-8
Ages 9-13

“I loved MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK.  Once again, Barbara Dee writes about important topics with intelligence, nuance and grace.  She earned all the accolades for MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU, and will earn them for MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK too.”

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of FIGHTING WORDS and Newbery Honor Book THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE

“I felt every beat of Zinny Manning’s heart in this authentic and affecting story. Barbara Dee consistently has her finger on the pulse of her middle-grade audience. Outstanding!”

Leslie Connor, author of A HOME FOR GODDESSES AND DOGS and National Book Award finalist THE TRUTH AS TOLD BY MASON BUTTLE

“MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK is a powerful portrayal of a twelve-year-old dealing with her sibling’s newly discovered mental illness. Author Barbara Dee deftly weaves in themes of friendship, family, and secrets, while also reminding us all to accept what we can’t control. I truly loved every moment of this emotional and gripping novel, with its notes of hope that linger long after the last page.”


“Barbara Dee offers a deeply compassionate look at life for twelve-year-old Zinny, whose older brother faces mental health challenges. This touching novel will go a long way in providing understanding and empathy for young readers. Highly recommended.”

Donna Gephart, award-winning author of LILY AND DUNKIN and THE PARIS PROJECT

“MY LIFE IN THE FISH TANK rings true for its humor, insight, and honesty. Zinny is an appealing narrator, and her friendships with supporting characters are beautifully drawn.”

Laura Shovan, author of TAKEDOWN and A PLACE AT THE TABLE