Book Review: WATER IN MAY by Ismée Williams

WATER IN MAY is definitely one of my top YA contemporaries of the year, with a plotline that will tug at your heartstrings.

Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols is thrilled to be pregnant. Although she knows things won’t be easy for her and her unborn child, she is convinced that the baby will give her a reason to live and be someone who won’t leave her. Mari has good reason to have that particular goal and fears of abandonment. After all, her mother left her with her grandmother when she was eight and her father is incarcerated. And her grandmother has her own issues. Still, Mari has her three best friends, Heavenly, Teri, and Yaz, who have each other’s backs and provide support no matter what. Although Mari loves Bertie, the father of her child, she isn’t sure how committed he is, especially since he runs with a drug dealer. When doctors discover that her fetus has HLHS, essentially missing half of its heart, Mari is faced with a hard decision since the baby will need several surgeries and face a tough life if it survives those surgeries.

Mari isn’t exactly the most likable main character out there, but she IS one of the strongest. Even though she’s only fifteen, she was always determined and didn’t let anything or anyone influence her decisions. It didn’t exactly bother me, but there might be some people who think she’s too immature or self-absorbed sometimes. Let me remind you she’s a pregnant TEEN, and I completely understand why she acted that certain way. She is the exact kind of protagonist I want to read about nowadays. Strong and confident but certainly not perfect.

Her friendships with Yaz, Hev, and Teri were incredibly heart-warming. They pretty much show the reader what they should look for in a best friend, and it makes you rethink and ponder. Would my best friend refuge me in her house if I had nowhere else to go? Would she accompany me to my pregnancy appointments in the future? Would she support me no matter what my situation is at home? If you read Water in May, which I really hope you do, ask yourself these questions. Reflect on your life and friendships. I promise it will help you. It helped me, for sure.

The family dynamic was heartbreaking, but at the same time, fascinating. Why? It made me think a lot. About my family and those close to me. You look at Mari, she’s poor, her mother abandoned her, her father is in jail and hasn’t seen her in years, and her grandmother left her side when she needed her most. But you look at that pure joy when she realizes that she’s pregnant and will FINALLY have someone who truly loves her. Meanwhile, you look at teens in real life, fighting with their parents over the most ridiculous things. The latest phone, another trip to Disney World, not enough money, a new car. Is that really who we have become as a society? I’d buy hundreds of copies of this book and give them to teens all over the world to show them what love is and what really matters. How we need to bring each other up instead of tear each other down. That, right there, is what life is about, and I’m thankful to Mrs. Williams for reinserting that in my heart.

I really liked the fact that there was romance, but it wasn’t the main focus. So often, we see these amazing contemporaries with great synopses, but when we get to reading, that promised, wonderful plotline fades away when the golden boy steps in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for romance. Like, real bad. But it’s nice to see real relationships for once. A romance that a teen could actually face. Bertie was very kind and caring, and even when Mari pushed him away, he never left her side. Even if she had lost all hope for him, he always believed in her.

The story had a kind of writing that definitely let you know the main character was Dominican. It was funny, descriptive, and sad, all in one. The chapters were pretty short, which I always love, and it read really quickly. When I got to 100 pages, it certainly did not feel like I had read that much. I’d consider it perfect for readathons, and getting out of a book hangover or reading slump.

Something I really appreciate is that this isn’t a random person writing about a heart condition. Ismée Williams is a former pediatric cardiologist. She knows what she’s talking about and she’s had patients like this before. The way that she explains all the science and medical aspects makes it super easy to understand for people, like me, who don’t know a single thing about hearts.

I cannot speak on the Dominican representation, since I’m Puertorican, not Dominican. But, the Latino rep was good. It was fun to see what some familiar words to me meant in the Dominican Republic, especially the curse words. I would’ve liked to see some more insight on what being a Dominican in New York was like, but maybe that’s just me. This book wasn’t about the Latino experience on the US, but about a teen pregnancy, so I understand why the author did it.

Water in May was a total delight to read. If you’re looking for a quick read that will still make an impact, this is the book for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Water in May is out now, and is available via online retailers and bookstores everywhere. You can order it now via Amazon.

Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols believes that the baby she’s carrying will finally mean she’ll have a family member who will love her deeply and won’t ever leave her—not like her mama, who took off when she was eight; or her papi, who’s in jail; or her abuela, who wants as little to do with her as possible. But when doctors discover a potentially fatal heart defect in the fetus, Mari faces choices she never could have imagined.

Surrounded by her loyal girl crew, her off-and-on boyfriend, and a dedicated doctor, Mari navigates a decision that could emotionally cripple the bravest of women. But both Mari and the broken-hearted baby inside her are fighters; and it doesn’t take long to discover that this sick baby has the strength to heal an entire family.

Inspired by true events, this gorgeous debut has been called “heartfelt, heartbreaking and—yes!—even a little heart-healing, too” by bestselling YA novelist Carolyn Mackler.


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