Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Young adult literature

Published by: Text Publishing

The Minnow is a beautiful, sad and unusual tale of grief and loss and learning to find a new place in the world.

A girl called Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed.

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 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, and a turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.

About the author

Diana Sweeney

Diana Sweeney is a university lecturer and fashion model. She was born in Auckland, and moved to Sydney at the age of twelve.

She now lives in northern New South Wales.

The Minnow is her first novel.

Judges’ comments

'My name hasn't always been Tom. It used to be Tomboy and before that it was Holly. Even Nana calls me Tom.'

In the wake of devastating floods, Tom, left without the protection of her family, is exploited and finds herself pregnant with 'the minnow'. From this dramatic beginning The Minnow gradually reveals the rural backwater where Tom starts to rebuild her life.

The selfless Jonah and a very small group of friends help Tom, while threats linger in the form of volatile Bill (the minnow's true father). One of the most striking things about The Minnow is the painterly language and dreamlike world created by first-time author Diana Sweeney.

The borders between the real and imagined world are very thin, and Tom has the ability to speak to her unborn child (and for the child to speak to her). Fish also have a significant presence in the novel. The setting is convincingly portrayed, with the river both a life giving force and the taker of so many lives.

The ghosts of her dead family speak to Tom, support her, and carry her through. The Minnow is a poignant and lyrical novel that marks the arrival of an original voice in Australian youth literature.