Review: Mary Underwater

Rating: 📘 📘 📘 📘 / 5

240 pages; Amulet Books; 2020

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.

Shannon Doleski weaves a harrowing tale of perseverance in the face of abuse. You can’t help but feel admiration for Mary and her determination as she works on her submarine with Kip and Ford Wallace of cottage number 12 (the one with the messiest yard).

When people are in bleak circumstances, they reach for control in whatever way possible. In Mary’s case, it’s creating a one-person submarine in order to escape her life – even if it’s just for a short time.

You will find yourself alternatively cheering Mary and her crew on and holding your breath during tense situations from interactions with her father to getting caught by military police after breaking into a base to admire a real submarine to her treacherous journey across the Chesapeake Bay in a rickety, homemade sub with nothing but her wits and Joan of Arc.

This is a definite page turner for readers of all ages. The story grabs you from the opening line all the way to its thrilling conclusion. It’s a great blend of drama, comedy, and surprisingly fascinating information about submarines.

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