I think it’s safe to say that I’ve not been this moved by a young adult book since The Fault in Our Stars. Ismee Amiel Williams’s Water in May* certainly tugs at the heart strings but not in a gratuitous way. This is a book that will at the very least have you biting on your bottom lip, if not all-out weeping, but not at the expense of character or story.
Water in May is narrated by Mari Pujols, a 15-year-old girl who is delighted to find she’s pregnant because she’ll finally have someone in her life who truly loves her. Her mum walked out when she was eight, her dad is in jail and her gran seems to feel stuck with her. But when doctors discover her unborn child has a heart defect, Mari faces choices far beyond what any teenager should ever have to deal with. Especially one who feels so alone.
See. You can imagine why anyone would find this story particularly moving, especially someone who has a small child and who has dealt with loss. The first-person narrative really helps the story to pack an emotional punch and the use of Dominican slang helps convey the sense of Mari’s heritage and lifestyle. It feels like a very authentic young adult novel – speaking as someone who is pushing 30! One particularly strong point for me was Mari’s friendships. I love the sense of sisterhood and that despite everyone’s struggles they’re all there for each other, as an alternative family when their own is sometimes lacking. They also added a lighter element to an otherwise quite dramatic and emotional story.
The medical side is handled well and not laden with jargon, as Mari’s sympathetic doctor talks to her in ways that she can understand without being condescending. Readers might be interested to know that the author is actually a pediatric cardiologist herself and, as the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, partially raised by her grandparents, her own background helped her to understand the real-life Maris she has met throughout her career.
Probably best not to read this one if you’re pregnant/a hormonal blubbering mess but certainly otherwise very highly recommended! I’m interested to see what Ismee Amiel Williams comes up with next.
Water in May is released tomorrow.
*I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes and all thoughts are my own.