Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Content Warnings: Doctors’ offices, scenes in hospitals and intensive care units, pregnancy & birth, violence, infant death.
Every once in a while, I read a story that’s truly special because it exposes the best of humanity in the worst and unfairest situations. One such novel is Ismée Williams’ debut Water in May, out today from Amulet. Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols is pregnant with the baby who thinks will save her family and change her future. Then she finds out that the baby has a severe and potentially fatal heart defect. Suddenly, Mari must make tough choices about her baby and her future in this riveting tale of family, friendship, motherhood and resilience.
I first want to acknowledge that I love this is a book written by a former pediatric cardiologist and a WoC that features a Latina protagonist. The book features a list of Dominican slang in the front and the language and culture of Mari’s Dominican family and group of friends shines through the pages of this book. If you are looking to read more diverse books, I highly recommend this beautifully written novel that shows the experiences of a WoC and inner city teen life.
My favorite part of this book was Mari and her voice. The writing was so rich and descriptive. I loved how there was both strength and vulnerability in her voice. Mari is a fighter with a past criminal history and a complicated family history. Her mom is an addict, her dad is in prison and she has a fraught relationship with her abuela. I found myself rooting for Mari from the first page.
I also loved her three friends (Yaz, Teri and Heavenly) and the ways that the four girls loved and supported one another. If you are looking for a book about girl power and strong female relationships, then Water in May is the book for you. I even liked the depiction of Mari’s relationship with her baby’s father, Bertie, and found the way their relationship changed to be one of the most tearjerking parts of this emotional read. The parts that take place in the NICU are also particularly emotional, but William’s description of procedures and nurses and the overall environment is spot-on.
The storytelling and pacing is also spot on. Williams did a great job juggling all of the subplots in this book. The descriptions are great. The dialog is spot-on. There are twists and turns you won’t see coming. I also loved how at the core of this story is a doctor, Dr. Love, who fights for his patient and a mother who fights for her child against all odds. If I am going to read a book that I know will be emotionally taxing, I like it to be full of hope and inner strength. Water in May did not disappoint. It exceeded all my expectations and left me in tears. I hope it’ll leave you teary-eyed as well, with joy and a little bit of sadness. There are more moments I loved in this book that I would love to gush about, but read this book first and then find me and we can gush together. This is the kind of book I don’t want to spoil. I want you all to take this intense and powerful storytelling journey and enjoy it as much as I did.