Review: Spineless

Title: Spineless
Author: Samantha San Miguel
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Union Square Kids
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

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.


In the late 1800s, twelve-year-old Algie Emsworth goes to a Florida health resort with his mom and brother to improve his asthma. Algie quickly befriends the resort owner’s daughters, Lulu and Frankie, and they explore the swamps surrounding the resort. The three friends discover a new species of octopus and her eight babies. Algie knows he must keep this discovery a secret, because there is a collector of exotic species also staying at the resort. When strange things start happening, like pools filling with ink and a guest being attacked, it becomes more important than ever for Algie and his friends to protect this new species. 

This story explores the dangers of exploring nature and how it can be affected by humans. There is a fine line between exploring and discovering a new species, and exploiting and disturbing nature. Once Algie and his friends had discovered the octopus, it was no longer in a completely natural habitat, without human interference. It’s important to learn about nature and try to preserve it, but we also need to let these species live their own lives without disturbing them for our own human gain. 

Algie had asthma which really affected what he could do. He had to be careful not to overexert himself, and he always carried an inhaler ball with him. I think asthma is much more common today, but it was interesting to see how it affected Algie’s life more than 100 years ago, and the medicine of inhalers is still used today. 

Spineless is a great story about species discovery!

Thank you Union Square Kids for proving a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Have you read Spineless? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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