Mary Murphy feels like she’s drowning. Her violent father is home from prison, and the social worker is suspicious of her new bruises. An aunt she’s never met keeps calling. And if she can’t get a good grade on her science project, she’ll fail her favorite class.
But Mary doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. She has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she’s been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown.
Gaining courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary vows to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay, risking her life in a modern crusade to save herself.
Mary Underwater is an empowering tale of persistence, heroism, and hope from a luminous new voice in middle-grade fiction.
I thought this book looked cute on the cover, read the blurb and was beyond intrigued. It isn’t often I come across a book that deals with child abuse that’s written for children, and I know there are actually quite a few out there, I just haven’t gone looking, but after reading this amazing MG novel, well, I’m inclined to go looking.
Mary has a violent father, her mother doesn’t do anything to make her feel safe, and is a victim as well, but, when her father is back in the house from his prison sentence, Mary knows things should change.
She’s let her grades slip, fear has cultivated inside her and Doleski captures all this perfectly in such a poignant manner.
The best part of this is that Mary throws herself into a project, and, it’s a completely STEM book. Mary loves science and after a successful school experiment of building a model sub, she goes for the next step; build a submarine so she can pilot it across the Chesapeake Bay.
The determination in Mary, her friends and family are all done to this amazing extent. You feel as if you’re in their world, and watching Mary branch out, to make her own support system is beautiful.
In times of need, Mary looks to her hero, Joan of Arc, but she also comes to rely on others and that’s the truly beautiful aspect of this novel.
Mary learns that there are adults that CAN make her feel safe, she trusts others for once and reaches out for help. All of this shows such strength and character growth. I couldn’t think of a better representation of all this in any other book I have tread thus far.
Doleski doesn’t overly go into detail on the abuse, and yet she does not shy away from the fact it’s there and she handles it with a frankness that children deserve.
So, if you want an MG read that supports STEM learning with girls, has a cool submarine, tackles child abuse and the toll it has on the children and has a great cast of characters, I highly recommend this!
5/5 Cups of Coffee from me, definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.
Did I mention that Mary builds a submarine?
Content/Trigger Warnings: This does contain some scenes of child abuse.
About the Author
Shannon Doleski was born and raised in Cazenovia, New York. After graduating from Niagara University with a degree in English Education, Shannon was a high school and middle school teacher and swim coach in New York and Maryland. She lives in West Texas with her husband, three children, and beagle.