*This review was originally written for YA Books Central and is being republished here with permission. To see the original post, click here.
I received this book via the publisher, Union Square Kids. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Spineless by Samantha San Miguel
Published by Union Square Kids on 2022-06-07
Length: 216 pages
Reviewing Hardcover Rating:
Reading Challenges: 2022 New Release Challenge, COYER 2022
This exciting middle-grade adventure is Hoot for the Gilded Age—with scientific discoveries, secret plots, and surprisingly enormous fauna.
When his asthma lands him at a health resort in the wilds of Gilded Age South Florida, twelve-year-old Algie Emsworth is over the moon. The scientific treasure trove of unexplored swamps may launch his dream career as a naturalist. But even Algie is startled when he happens upon a brand-new species and her brood in the karst springs surrounding the resort. Algie quickly realizes he must keep his discovery a secret: a famous collector of exotic animals is also staying at the hotel, and the new species is threatened by his very presence. An apparent curse has also descended upon the hotel, bringing with it a deadly red tide. But when the pool starts filling with ink and guests start getting mysterious, sucker-shaped wounds, Algie must pluck up his courage to find the truth about the goings-on at the Grand Hotel—and save the new species from destruction.
Spineless by Samantha San Miguel is a fascinating story about a preteen boy who travels to the swamplands of Florida with his family to convalesce during the winter months. Algie Elmsworth is 12 at the start of our story and over the moon to visit the resort known for its exotic and unusual animals. When he arrives however, he is saddened to learn that there is a mystery afoot. Something is killing the animals, making them come onshore and running off paying guests. If this continues, the resort can’t stay open. Algie with the help of his new friends, two sisters and the daughters of the owner, race to solve the mystery, save the resort, and discover a few new species along the way.
What I Loved
This is a really fun story. The setting is during Florida’s Gilded Age which adds to the mystery surrounding the red tide. Technology isn’t the same then as it is today, and it was interesting to see how Algie would use the resources at his disposal. Frankie and Lulu, the sisters, are as different in temperament as can be, but I love how they support and encourage Algie. This is not a romantic story in any sense, but rather a story about seasonal friendships and making your own adventure.
The plot is fast moving and easy to follow, entertaining and exciting. Middle grade readers and older children who are ready for larger chapter books will enjoy Algie’s discoveries. I personally liked how Algie’s asthma is incorporated into the story. Rather than being a main focus, the author shows how Algie lives with the disease, how it affects him, and what he does to work around it. This will resonate with readers who have asthma.
Overall I really enjoyed Spineless. Algie’s adventure in the Florida swamp during the Gilded Age is like stepping back in time. While he isn’t fighting the Nazis as a certain iconic archaeologist does, the adventure has the same fast-moving plot and exciting escapades that will capture the attention of old and young alike. As a middle grade adventure novel, Spineless will draw readers of all kinds and inspire exploration of the nature surrounding them.
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