Water in May by Ismée Williams (review)
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Reviewed by
Williams, Ismée Water in May. Amulet, 2017 [320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4197-2539-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-68335-134-4 $15.54
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12

“Angelo is like rainwater in May. He’s what we needed when we needed it most.” So says sixteen-year-old Mari, paraphrasing her Dominican grandmother about the baby Mari’s carrying, which has given Mari great joy and eased her relationship with Abuela, with whom she lives. However, it turns out that Angelo has a serious cardiac defect—HLHS, or hypoplastic left heart syndrome—which leaves him with functionally half a heart. Since the chances of his survival are small and his medical needs will be great, Mari’s family pressures her to have an abortion, but Mari throws her considerable force of character into protecting her Angelo. Teen [End Page 140] pregnancy isn’t an uncommon YA topic, but this is an unusual slant on it, since everybody, including the baby’s father, is absolutely delighted that Mari’s pregnant until the medical problem rears its ugly head. Mari is a deeply credible character, a girl who’s always spoiling for a fight, usually a physical one, but who’s turning that impulse into fighting for her baby. Williams, formerly a pediatric cardiologist at Columbia, brings vivid authenticity to the medical side of things, including the details of life with a baby in the NICU and the varying personalities of health care personnel. While a few important details are handwaved—it’s never mentioned what’s funding Angelo’s surgeries and care, for instance—the emotional core here is credible as well as dramatic; readers mourning the loss of 16 and Pregnant will rush to read Mari’s story.

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