Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement.
Until Polina arrives.
She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her.
She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.
This book ended up being more mature and older than I thought, which ultimately made it a more powerful novel with lasting thoughts.
It took me several chapters to really get into this book. Ivan initially didn't draw me in and I found him kind of annoying; however, once I did fall into this, I found it terribly heartening and hard to put down. Each scene seemed to have a purpose, and I liked that I was getting over my initial discomfort with how hopeless Ivan's whole life seemed.
I loved the narration style of this book. It was incredibly unique and made me feel as though Ivan were actually a real person. His cynicism about the world was incredibly amusing, and though he was a teenager, he initially felt quite young. The way he talked about the nurses around him and his environment was incredibly heartening.
Though this book might seem initially a little removed from the world of most readers, I thought it gave an important perspective to what living with severe disability might be like, and how one can still have hope and one can still have a purpose, and I found that to be very important.
I'm glad I was reading this review because otherwise I likely wouldn't have continued reading this book. The first part was slow and hard for me to get into. But ultimately, this book was so worth it and I highly recommend it.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.