“Sometimes dragons need to be slayed.”
Ever since Mary Murphy’s father was released from prison, she’s been a ghost in her own home. The strain of trying to avoid the yelling, the violence, and her mother’s dejected apathy takes its toll, and she finds herself struggling to avoid her teachers’ concerns when she begins failing science. Teaming up with class clown Kip Dwyer, Mary decides to build a remote-controlled submarine for a final, grade-saving physics project. The success of the presentation and growing feelings between Mary and Kip prompt the decision to seek out ex-Navy scientist Ford Wallace and build a “real submersible.” When her father’s violence turns on the projects and people she loves, however, Mary begins to despair of ever escaping her shadowed life on their Chesapeake Bay island. Doleski draws an empathetic portrayal of an abuse victim; Mary is closed off and fearful, but her fervent determination to free herself from a toxic home situation has not yet been extinguished, placing her in stark contrast to her downtrodden and resigned mother. Her distrust of her social worker rings painfully true, but a strong support system of friends, teachers, and relatives and the memory of Joan of Arc keep her afloat. The teasing, warm relationship between Mary and Kip is a delight, and the submersible plot builds to a thrilling, fraught climax. A white default is assumed.
A ruggedly heartwarming tale of resilience and romance. (Fiction. 10-14)