Cover Image: Mary Underwater

Mary Underwater

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a book will grab your heart and not let go! Mary's character reminds me so much of some of the kids in my school. I think they will love the struggles that Mary goes through and how she can change the world, and herself in the process.
Was this review helpful?
As far as brave, smart, determined & resilient characters go Mary couldn’t fit all of those any better. This story is such a heartwarming one full of so many representations of what love & friendship is and the undeniable power it holds. Mary is exactly the example young readers should be reading about. As she navigates the many challenges of living in a toxic home environment we get to see a vulnerability paired with a bold determination to save herself. I loved the delicate balance of her being in a situation so painful yet leaning on the side of bravery with Joan of Arc by her side. The way she grows from being closed off & cautious with who she trusts to being surrounded by people who care for her really warmed my heart. Her budding romance with fellow classmate & co-submarine builder Kip was the sweetest. Kip’s character added such a fun & light feel to the story & really complimented Mary throughout their adventure. I always appreciate when middle grade authors tackle such delicate subject matter, such as violence in the home in an honest age appropriate way. There was a lot to love about this story & I adored following along as Mary defied the typical stereotypes & shared her love of engineering & STEM with us readers in the most adventurous way. Mary’s dream of building this submarine captured the importance of holding onto something even when it feels like there’s nothing to hold onto. Mary’s resilience & determination are sure to spark a light with young dreamers & builders.
Was this review helpful?
I love stories that fit the upper-MG range (and this one was a Catholic school student to boot, which so was I!) and the Joan of Arc PLUS STEM aspects were really well done and interesting.
Was this review helpful?
I had the immense pleasure of reading an digital advance copy of Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski thanks to #NetGalley, Amulet Books, and Abram Kids. This book will be released on April 7, 2020. All opinions are my own.

Mary feels like she is trapped and drowning. Her abusive father has been released from jail and is now living at home with them again. Her social worker reappears and is suspicious of her new bruises. Her aunt, who she hasn't seen in years, also returns to town and begins calling and visiting her. More trouble comes at home when she fails her science test. Her only hope to pass the class is to do well on her physics project. She pairs up with Kip Dwyer and the two create a model of a submersible. This leads Mary to decide that she doesn't want to be a victim any more and she develops a plan: create an actual submersible, with the help of Kip, and escape across the bay.

This was an amazingly powerful story that is beautifully written. It is inspired by the story of Joan of Arc and Joan's story is interwoven with Mary's. I initially wanted to read this book because of the cover. I assumed it would be a girl-power and STEM forward book, which it was, but it was also so, so much more than that. The submarine and the use of Joan's story are well structured plot devices to help convey the main message about persistence, hope, and heroism. Mary realizes that she is worthy of love and that she can also be her own hero. She struggles with physical abuse and wanting to protect her family because she still loves them. This is a struggle that some middle grade readers will connect to. I hope that these same readers see Mary's strength and seek help like she does (though, I hope they do it in a safer way than building and piloting a submersible). The book includes additional information about building and/or learning more about submersibles as well as information on seeking help if the reader is in a similar situation as Mary or knows someone who is. Mary Underwater is an incredibly important book for middle grade readers. Children like Mary need to know they are not alone and that though it may mean change (which can be difficult) there are people out there who want to help. I can't wait to get a copy of Mary Underwater for my classroom library.
Was this review helpful?
I thought this was such a great book. First off I would like to say this book does have trigger warnings for child abuse. Mary is a smart girl who has Joan of Arc for a hero. Her home life is not great and when her father gets out of prison things start up again. She takes refuge in building a sub for a class project for STEM and then wants to build a real one to go across the bay. This story is full of heart and sad moments, but overall good. I like how this story touches on the issue of children who are abused, but find it hard to talk about the truth. How they don't want to leave the home they have lived in to go some place new. That is just as scary for them as to stay in the home. I also like how it brings up the topic of STEM and how girls should be encouraged to explore and learn about everything they want.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the character development we saw throughout. This was funny, sad, and hopeful. Kip is such a great character! I really enjoyed the first love aspects of the book. I feel like there aren't a lot of upper middle grade novels that deal with first love in this gentle way. I am always looking for upper middle grade novels for those patrons who aren't quite ready for YA books and this fits the bill! A couple of things kept this from being five stars for me. There was something about the writing that made it seem a tiny bit unrealistic and old-fashioned. Also, there is an author's note at the end saying that Mary should not have confronted her father and warned the reader about confronting an abuser. However, I fear that readers may not read the author's note and think confronting an abuser is OK.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not crying, you're crying. 

*deep breath*

Okay, yes, reading this book may have made me a little bit emotional. True, it is a story of abuse, but more than that, it is a tale of bravery, dreams, love, faith, and finding the courage to fight for your worth. My heart will forever have a space for Mary Murphy and Kip Dwyer. Doleski perfectly captures an age often ignored in the cracks between MG and YA as she charts the first-love experience of these two 13/14 year olds. I have a fourteen year old sister, and this is one of the first books I've read where I saw teens who acted like her - not older, not younger - and I will 110% be letting her read it after me! 

I loved how the plot combined quirkiness and realism. Is it possible for a group of kids to build and pilot a submarine across a bay, no matter how much assistance they had? Probably not.. Did I believe it? Every second. Doleski's writing is simple yet concise, full of just enough technicalities, with a little Joan of Arc thrown in for luck. I usually go for more speculative books, but this STEM-packed adventure had me turning pages like no one's business. Overall, a very high recommendation for all school, library, and personal collections! 4/5.
Was this review helpful?
E ARC provided by Netgalley



Mary lives on the coast of the Chesapeake Bay with her mother and her abusive father who is frequently in jail for various assault charges. She goes to a local Catholic school where the nuns are very concerned about her, and she does have a social worker assigned to her, but her mother always feels that the abuse is her own fault. When her aunt Betty moves into town, Mary's life improves a bit, although her father won't have anything to do with Betty and her wife. At the end of the year, a science project with a boy at her school, Kip, gets Mary very interested in submersibles, and with the help of an eccentric local scientist, the two work on building a working model, funded by Mary's job helping her aunt at the public library. Things don't go smoothly, and her father damages the craft at one point, and also assaults Kip, which doesn't help the budding romance between the two. Can Mary manage to take the submersible across the bay, reconnect with Kip, and find a safe place to live?

Strengths: This had several things going for it; a good sense of place in the setting, a student in a Catholic school, a nice romance, and a character with an abusive home life. My students love to read these stories, because it makes their own lives look good in comparison. I liked that Mary had a best friend who was concerned for her and that she had an aunt and a social working who were looking out for her. Her father does end up in trouble for his actions. The story is well written and moves along quickly. 
Weaknesses: I really enjoyed Mary's romance with Kip, and her struggles with her home life were interesting, but I struggled to believe that she and Kip could actually build a submersible. 
What I really think: I'm debating, but the sections talking about Joan of Arc really pushed this across the line of accessibility for my readers. Building the submersible was quirky enough, and even though my students usually like to read about children in bad situations like Mary's, this didn't strike quite the right tone somehow. If the public library has it, I probably won't purchase it. I can see this being a big hit with school that focus on STEM learning or enjoy quirky a bit more than my students do.
Was this review helpful?
I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

This book and Mary have stolen my heart! 
Mary is like so many children in society who hasn't got it easy. Mary is scared of change and what it might mean but learns that change can be a good thing. 
Mary meets Kip who is such a fun loveable character, and they team up to make a real life sub after a STEM project. 
The seaside setting is so encapturing to the imagination.
Kids will adore this book, it covers so much in an understanding and capturing way!
Was this review helpful?
Middle grade fiction with a strong, smart female protagonist? Count me in. I immediately loved Mary "Murph" Murphy and was heartbroken for her horrible family situation. I think Shannon Doleski does good job balancing telling a difficult story, of a girl who has a pretty brutal life, while also showing us that there are ALWAYS helpers and ways out of terrible situations. Both the adult mentors (especially submarine-engineer Ford) and the teenage friends and love interests made me cheer for the ways they help Mary -- and push her outside her comfort zone. Doleski also does a lovely job capturing the feel of Mary's coastal hometown, too. I could almost taste the salt spray and the Maryland blue crabs.  I will definitely be recommending this book to my middle-grade readers. Note: I received a pre-release copy of this book from the publisher, but the opinions expressed here are wholly my own.
Was this review helpful?
A fantastic middle grade book that captures the imagination and tackles big issues.  This beautifully written book will transport you right to the little seaside town where big things are happening to young Mary.  The story melds, teen friendships, STEM, family dynamics and even a little romance, into a truly heartwarming tale of a young woman finding herself and striking out to make her place in the world.

I really enjoyed how this book tackled complicated family issues, especially the issue of Mary’s abusive father.  The book doesn't mince words about how the cycle of abuse works, but still keeps the tale safely appropriate for middle grades.  This same delicate hand is applied to other issues that face the teenage characters.  Losing and mending friendships, budding romance and challenging families are deftly presented.  A very age-appropriate taste of the world for young readers.  The additional Joan of Arc backstory offers insightful parallels to Mary’s life and really helps frame this coming of age story.  A middle grade book with this level of wide appeal is always a wonderful find, this one would be a great addition to any collection.
Was this review helpful?
This is an absolutely phenomenal middle grade that features an older protagonist, something that is desperately needed. Doleski presents the issue of abuse sensitively and appropriately for the age of the target reader. Mary’s story is captivating and moving. I strongly recommend this book for all classroom libraries as it is not only entertaining but will also serve as a jumping point for many important conversations.
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that will have your heart breaking and warming in equal measure. It deals with domestic abuse and there are times when I had tears streaming down my face for the situation Mary is living within. However, there is hope and goodness in her world and she is brave.
Mary’s father is home from prison again and she feels as though she can no longer breathe. She must tiptoe around in fear as her mother is unable, or unwilling, to protect her from the rage in her father.
Planning a school project with Kip, the very sweet and funny class clown, leaves Mary with a plan and a first boyfriend. While ensuring her grades stay up, she and Kip become close and build a submersible, earning them a high score for the project. Wondering if it was scaleable, Mary investigates whether a homemade sub could travel across the bay, taking her away and escaping her situation.
As a reader knowing what her home life was, it was so hard to watch her push her friends away, lie to her teachers and social worker and sustain a bad beating. The notes at the back of the book are so honest and helpful in that they help the reader try to understand why this happens.
Those are the heart breaking moments, but balanced with equally heart warming ones, there is a first kiss, hope in the form of an Aunt, and a journey of self discovery under the water in a submersible. When Mary decides to go for it, there are panic moments of loss of oxygen, the unpreparedness for the journey and the worry of leaving her friends. Will she and her sub make it across the bay, will she escape her family and will Kip still like her?
However, this journey awakens her spirit and her self preservation, empowering her make bold and brave choices. Throughout the story, Mary is inspired by Joan of Arc and her plight to save France. She carries a card of Joan in her pocket and prays to her for help. It is an incredibly unique story and the themes of escape and self preservation are portrayed almost as characters themselves. 
I would highly recommend this book for children in Year 6 and above but with a sensitive warning about domestic abuse.
Was this review helpful?