The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

Title: the minnowThe Minnow

Author: Diana Sweeney

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 256 pages

Published by: Text Publishing

Published on: 28th May 2014

Source: received from Text Publishing in exchange for review (thanks, Text!)


Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.

Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.

And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.

The Minnow is a moving and powerful coming of age story with a whimsical element that belies the heartbreaking truth of grief and loss. Tom is a character you will never forget.

Like all before me, I love this cover SO SO much. In the paperback version (you can’t really see just from the image) some of the images on the front are silver and shiny. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to read it. The others were that 1) it won the Text Prize in 2013,  2) it sounded amazing and 3) Text’s books have never disappointed me.

And I’m glad to say that I was not disappointed.

Ways to describe The Minnow: beautiful writing. Breathtaking imagery. Questions of reality. Counting sheep. An unusual protagonist. Past and present. And, of course, the Minnow.

So Tom is our protagonist. It’s a nickname – her real name is Holly, but I won’t tell you why she’s called Tom. Not that it’s a spoiler, but you can read for yourself why she’s called that. And I love Tom. She’s a character you wouldn’t see in any other YA book. She talks to fish (and they talk back). She talks to some of her dead relatives, especially her Papa. She talks to her unborn baby, whom she calls the Minnow. This created a sense of magic, I suppose, and is one of the most unique forms of storytelling I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.

A lot of it was just so calming. 

Not that the story was calming, exactly. There was a lot of heartache and sadness and confusion. I mean, Tom’s a fifteen-year-old girl who’s pregnant – that’s not the easiest thing to go through. But the way the story was told, the slow pace, the heavy use of water-based imagery made for a really lovely read.

I should explain the counting sheep thing. I mentioned it before in how I would describe The Minnow. It was just a short section, but for some reason I really loved it. You know how counting sheep is supposed to make you fall asleep? This books describes an alternative version. Not sure why I’m devoting a whole paragraph to it, but that’s just one of the many examples of things that are re-imagined, the versions of reality that are recrafted to create this utterly incredible debut.

It made me want to be a better writer. In one of my first drafts, the main character has a pet spider who she talks to. It’s contemporary YA, and that’s the only non-realistic thing in it. I kind of thought that wasn’t allowed. But this book breaks all the rules, and I’d love to experiment with surrealism, which I’ve encountered often in drama but rarely in YA contemporary.

Then there’s the Minnow! I mean, the book is named after the Minnow. She is Tom’s unborn baby. Tom talks to the Minnow, and she talks back, and it’s generally just adorable and different. Throughout the book, there’s no explanation about why/how/if Tom is actually talking to dead people and fish, but that just adds to the mystery and whimsy. Don’t overthink it! Just go with the flow. 

It was a little confusing at some points, and I think some things could have done with more explanation. It’s a difficult balance when you write a novel this unique, because if you explain TOO much, it loses that incredible writing quality. But I think even a tiny bit more explanation, or even transition into the past/present, would have helped.

If you enjoy characters over plot, talking to animals and beautiful writing, you should definitely give it a go.

Comparison books: 

bird crystal chan girl saves boy

Bird by Crystal Chan and Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe – both Text books, both unique and incredibly well-written.

Rating: 4/5 Wonderkitties




Top Ten Tuesday: New Authors I Read In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme by The Broke and the Bookish and each week there’s a new topic. This week focuses on new authors you’ve read in 2013.

My reading has definitely expanded this year. Here are a few of the authors I’ve stumbled upon during the hyper-fast 2013.


1) Emily Gale, author of Steal My Sunshine

2) Karen Foxlee, author of The Anatomy of Wings and The Midnight Dress

3) Steph Bowe, author of Girl Saves Boy and All This Could End

(and by the way, all three of these are Awesome Aussie Authors


4) Stephanie Perkins, popular author of Anna and the French Kiss, as well as Lola and the Boy Next Door

5) Rainbow Rowell, author of Fangirl, Eleanor and Park and Attachments

6) Melissa Keil, Aussie debut author of Life in Outer Space


And now for the MGs!

7) Barry Jonsberg, author of My Life as An Alphabet

8) R J Palacio, author of the beautiful Wonder

9) Kate De Goldi, author of the book with the best family ever, The 10 PM Question

So those are my top nine new authors read this year. I’ve read a TON more that are just as worthy of being on this list, but alas, they could not all be included. Some of my other favourites from this year are Ellie Marney, Jesse Andrews, Georgia Nicholson, Jay Asher and Kody Keplinger.

Did you branch out and find new authors this year? Who are your favourites from 2013?

Top Ten Books on My Winter (Ahem, Summer) TBR List

Each week, The Broke and Bookish host a Top Ten Tuesday based on a certain bookish topic. Other bloggers are able to participate and post their own top ten list based on the topic.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR.

However, since I’m in Australia, this list will be my Summer TBR List. Here goes nothing:


1) Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I’ve heard SO much about this one and I really want to give it a go!

2) All The Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

Also heard lots about this one. Plus it has an awesome cover and a creepy blurb.

3) An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Okay, so I’m RE-reading this one, but I bought my own copy and I’m VERY excited to crack it open.


4) Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe

I LOVED All This Could End by Steph Bowe, and I have very high expectations for this one.

5) Shift by Em Bailey

Besides the AWESOME cover, Shift has been high on my TBR for a while.

6) The Key to the Golden Firebird

I’ve read a few books by Maureen Johnson now, and I’m eager to give this one a go – I loved Suite Scarlett and hope this will be just as good!


7) The Last Girl by Michael Adams

I borrowed this one from my school library. It has a really cool concept and is different from what I usually read.

8) The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

It’s Kind of a Funny Story was one of my favourite 2012 reads. It was really different, and I have high expectations of this book from the same author.

9) Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

This one is also a re-read. My mum loved Noel Streatfeild when she was younger, and so did I – now I want to read some of his books again.

Anyway, those are my top…well, nine books on the top of my TBR list? What about you?


ImageI admire Steph Bowe for a couple of simple reasons. 1) She’s Australian. 2) She’s a teen author. 3) She’s an Australian teen book author! Which is what I want to be someday. I mean, I may not get there as a teen, but the point is that someone MY AGE wrote something THIS GOOD. The point is not that she’s a teenager. The point is that this is a very very good book.

Actually, this book kind of reminded me of…me. Of my writing. It was a bit crazy, a bit on the odd side, very light-hearted. Not as GOOD as this, obviously.

So, quick summary: Nina (the protagonist) is a girl in a family that robs banks. Just to supplement their income, as families do. Nothing heavy-duty. Just balaclavas and some guns without ammo (which is proved wrong later, but that’s a spoiler so I won’t go into it).

ALL THIS COULD END is written in third person, present tense. At first it kind of put me off. But then it grew on me. It preserved the uniqueness of the story, and the innocence, somehow. It’s also told from two perspectives: Nina and Spence. The romance between them is totally cute. Spence is the awkward guy who likes strange words, and Nina is…the guy that ends up holding a gun to his head in a bank robbery (this isn’t a spoiler. It happens in the prologue).

This is just a really NICE book. Like, I didn’t have to think too hard when I read it. It wasn’t massively emotional or dark or beautiful. It was just a really nice book. And sometimes that’s all you need – just a nice book to while away a trip to a country village.

I’m going to have to keep an eye on Steph Bowe, judging by this book.

The next book I will review will be The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.