Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a lifelong resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born deformed yet mentally keen, with a frighteningly sharp wit, a strong intellect, and a voracious appetite for books, Ivan is forced to interact with the world through the vivid prism of his mind. 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.
That is until a new resident named Polina arrives at the hospital. At first Ivan resents Polina. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. She is exquisite. But 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.
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