Book Reviews

Review — The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

Book title: The Minnow
Author: Diana Sweeney
Publisher: Text Publishing
Release date: May 2014
Format: egalley, 256 pages
Source: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. This in no way affects my review; all opinions are my own. Thank you, Text Publishing!



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.

The review:

I guess you could call The Minnow “whimsical”, but it’s stranger than “whimsical”. It’s a unique book about Tom, a fourteen-year-old girl who is pregnant with what she calls “The Minnow”. A flood devastated her town and killed many of her family members. (I wanted to know more about the flood, as the explanations were too vague for my liking.) She still talks to them, her grandfather and sister, mainly, as sort of figments of her imagination. (I found this really poignant.) The book is about her life as she struggles through her pregnancy, a sort of coming-of-age story, I suppose. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what The Minnow is, though. I couldn’t put it down but was also extremely confused by it. Due in part to the jumpy narrative.

The story goes from present to past to present to past all the time. It was jarring and left me disoriented whenever I had to figure out what what going on when. I liked how it realistically felt like Tom’s stream of consciousness, but as a reader it was too much work to follow.

You may be wondering… how did Tom get pregnant? Well, after the flood, she went to live with Bill, a man described once as probably “her father’s age”. (Why would she go live with Bill, though? Is he a distant relative, or someone Tom’s parents made her guardian?) It’s not clearly stated, but I believe that he rapes her. Anyway, then Tom goes to live with her best friend Jonah (why would anyone let two minors live by themselves? The logic here didn’t do it for me, or a lot of other readers, I found out), who is sixteen-years-old, and who proves to be an awesome friend. He supports Tom through everything and helps take care of her baby. (Also, aside, Jonah is gay, so that was a nice bit of diversity to find here.) A lot of the book also deals with the police investigating a suddenly MIA Bill for a crime that’s never explained. For so much attention to the crime, I wanted it to be revealed in the end so I could get some closure on Bill, the creep, but, alas, I didn’t get it.

I liked Tom and really sympathized with her. I liked her direct, no-nonsense narration. I also liked her interest in words and their meanings: She constantly looked up definitions in her dictionary and thesaurus, and I’m a nerd like that, too, so I thought that was a fun little habit of hers. Tom also talked to fish. Greatest thing ever, in my opinion. I especially loved the conversations she had with the seahorse and turtle. It cracked me up. Tom also refers to her unborn baby as “The Minnow”, which I thought was adorable. The Minnow herself was a great character, having conversations with her mother and intuiting things. The other supporting characters were all fine, but I never really cared for any of them besides Nana, Papa, and Jonah.

The Minnow reads very quickly, even though it’s pretty confusing most of the time. (I read it in two sittings, each time half of the novel.) The book’s ending is rather ambiguous, and I’m still not 100% sure what happened there… Basically, I’m still confused with what I read, but I did overall enjoy this unique book. ♦

So tell me…

Have you read The Minnow? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was the last book you read about teen pregnancy? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!

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8 thoughts on “Review — The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

  1. I have read THE MINNOW! 😀 And I really liked it, even though it was weir and confusing and ambiguous at times. I just kind of loved how unique it was – and from so many different aspects, too.

    It was the first and only book I have read (thus far) about teenage pregnancy, but I think that’s in part due to the fact that there aren’t a lot of them? I guess YA erasure hits again on that front.

    I’m glad you liked this one Mallory, even if you did have a few problems with it.


  2. waves hand wildly I HAVE READ IT. I love it but it was kind of a war between the logical half of my brain and the I-love-art side of my brain. -_- I loved the narration, but I kept getting lost as to what was actually happening. It was so….like you said! WHIMSICAL. I really did love it though. (Although have you heard the theories about the ending?! Omg, they’re so sad.)


  3. Honestly for some reason I was never really a fan of this one. I think I understood about five-percent of the plot, and urgh, I don’t know, it just wasn’t my thing. I wanted to love it! I just didn’t. In saying that I did love the way it was written and it was very engaging.


    1. Yes, it was very engaging — I couldn’t put it down, despite being so very confused for almost the whole book. I liked the writing, too, but I’m still a bit unsure of everything that happened. I both liked and didn’t like The Minnow. It was a unique experience, that’s for sure.


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