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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2012
The Weight of Water is Sarah Crossan's debut novel and it was definitely a story that didn't disappoint! In this story, Crossan tells the story of a Polish girl, Kasienka, her mother (Ola/Mama) and their move to England in order to search for Tata, her father. This book deals with so many issues, including poverty, racism, immigration, family, growing-up and school life. It is a coming of age book and the title of it is quite apt - the reference to water is an interesting one - it's a good comparison to Kasienka's ever changing life and also reflects the fact that she 'finds herself' through swimming for her school.

Despite her sometimes quite fragile persona, Kasienka has an extremely strong voice from the very first verse. This story is written completely in verse, as a series of connected poems, and this method proves to be extremely effective. Every word seems important and well thought out, the language is simple yet descriptive. There were a few Polish words used at the beginning which I was unsure of, but they felt natural, it was easy to guess what they meant and it added a real sense of authenticity to Kasienka's voice. I managed to connect with her from the very beginning. She is very open and vulnerable but also has a strong personality and doesn't give up easily.

Our protagonist feels a lot of uncertainty, not only at her age (as she is only 12 years old) but also at her environment. There is a big contrast in cultures and it is interesting to see how Kasienka adjusts to some English customs and attitudes. Her family is also quite poor, which also causes some difficulties for her. Because of her differences, it is difficult for her to find friends in England, especially when others are being directly hostile towards her. She has no choice about a lot of things in her life and it's interesting to see how she copes with this.

Kasienka lives with her mother and their relationship sometimes causes inner conflict, especially when her father gets re-involved with their life. Their relationship was very realistic and tense at times. They were very loyal to each other and although they had troubles, they stuck together. Mama was clearly a strong and outwardly confident woman and would go to great lengths for love. However, I actually found Kasienka's relationship with an older, also foreign, man in her building - Kanoro - to be the most touching. Although there wasn't much of their dialogue discussed, it was easy to tell that they were both at ease when they were together and that they had a natural connection. I was glad to see that the (very slight) romance and her romantic interest, William, wasn't overwritten - he simply seemed to be a likeable boy who took notice her. The similarities and blossoming friendship between the newest pupil after Kasienka joined the school was also intriguing.

Overall, this was an amazing book that really surprised me - it was so much better than expected. It reminded me a lot of Faiza Guene's Kiffe Kiffe Demain, but I enjoyed it more thanks to a more likeable protagonist. The fact that it dealt with such a wide variety of important issues as well as being written in a very poetic way was incredible. I would not hesitate to recommend this book or to pick up more of Crossan's books in the future.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2012
This is the first book I've read which is written entirely in verse. I thought at first that I was going to find that difficult because I imagined it would feel disjointed to read but in actuality the verse flowed beautifully, the story unfolded smoothly and each separate verse was interconnected to the next so in some ways it was just like reading normal prose but with even more lyrical prowess.

The story is about a young girl called Kasienka who comes to England with her mother, to seek her father who left and abandoned them. Her mother is desperate to find them and believes they can do so by trawling the streets with a map and knocking on people's doors - just one of the many touching and heartbreaking moments in the book. Kasienka is bullied at school by another girl called Clair for being too white, having too short hair, having the wrong bag but essentially for being different. She eventually finds peace with a new friend and a boy called William who she meets at her local swimming pool.

Swimming is Kasienka's solace and it's when she's in the water that she feels sleek and self-assured and she can momentarily forget the many troubles which weigh heavy on her young shoulders. I loved the way in which her character develops throughout the book and although she has many issues to face she does so with her head held high.

The book is about immigration and alienation and trying to fit in with people who judge you on appearance without getting to know the real you and the person inside. Kasienka has to deal with peoples' prejudices, even those of the adults around her and an example of this is the way that she's initially put in a lower grade at school because her English isn't fluent but in reality she's actually extremely bright and intelligent and capable of studying at the same level as other people her age. The story teaches us to be accepting of people from different cultures and to not make snap judgements about others.

I thought 'The Weight of Water' was extremely moving and a powerful read which really touched me. I was drawn into the story and felt a great sense of empathy for Kasienka. Although this isn't normally the sort of book I'd pick up as the subject matter isn't one which would usually appeal to me I found it a lovely debut by an exciting new talent.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Kasienka and her mother arrive in England with little more than a bag of clothes and a plan to track down the father that abandoned them both. Forced into a new school with unfamiliar customs and a language that she doesn't fully understand it isn't easy for Kasienka to make friends. Suffering from bullying at school, living in a dismal flat and forced to walk the streets in search of her father all add up to a pretty miserable life for her. But can she find a place where she belongs?

I have to admit that I've not read many verse novels, in fact this is only the second one I've ever picked up as I've always been a bit wary of them in the past. In spite of that I found myself really enjoying Kasienka's story and I'm definitely thinking I should look into reading more of this kind of story. It isn't difficult to feel for Kasienka, she goes through so many hardships and my heart broke for her. I've never been an immigrant or struggled to go to a school where everyone speaks a different language to the one I was born speaking but I did suffer with bullying so could relate to what she suffered at the hands of school bully Clair.

The hardest thing to watch was the way her mother struggled to cope with the disappearance of her father though. Her mother has to work long hours just to afford a horrible bedsit and enough food for them to survive but then she spends all her spare time walking the streets knocking on doors showing her father's picture. It was heartbreaking to picture Kasienka trailing around after her mother when she should have been playing with friends like any normal 12-year-old girl. The story isn't all dark though, it also shows the strong friendships Kasienka makes both at home and at school and we get to see her confidence grow as she joins the school swimming team.

The Weight of Water is beautifully written and touches on so many important themes that I think it would make it a great book for using in schools. Among other things it will make you think about prejudice, racism, immigration, bullying, poverty and the importance of family and friends. This is a touching read and I would definitely recommend it if you are interested in any of these issues. I'm looking forward to seeing what Sarah Crossan comes up with next.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 January 2012
When I received this book to review from Bloomsbury, I knew it would be entirely different from anything I've read before - poetry and prose alike. In the press release that I received with the book, one of the first things it says about the book is: "The line between poetry and fiction blurs in this startlingly original book. Crossan deftly tackles subjects of immigration and bullying through her narrator Kasienka". When I read this, I'll admit that I may have been a little skeptical, as you may be, now knowing that the book is a collection of poems - but this skepticism was unnecessary; I absolutely loved it, and I implore you to try it!

This book definitely has a lot to say, not just about the issues it deals with, but also about popular literary forms. I always feel as though poetry has certain labels attached to it, particularly with teenagers - I find that a lot of teens associate it with school and academic study, but not as something that they would read for pleasure. Crossan shows though, that poetry can not only be understandable and non-threatening, but also fun to read and as poignant as any novel.
The poems flowed really well from one into another, so the story didn't feel broken or disjointed at any stage, but it was still easy to dip in and out of the book as I needed to.

Kasienka was a wonderful narrator - she made the poetry feel less like verse and more like a series of diary entries or a stream of consciousness. Through the intimacy of the poetic form, the reader is allowed further into Kasienka's thoughts, and given a deeper understanding of her feelings, than I think could have been communicated through prose. It was wonderful being able to watch her life evolve, moving from poem to poem, and being able to experience this with her. The poetry evokes such power emotions, that by the end of the collection, it's easy to believe in her story of pain, struggle and unshaken optimism and courage.
As someone who has grown up in and lived in Britain all my life, it gave me an opportunity to see life in this country from a different perspective, and begin to understand what it must be like for a young person moving into Britain and being forced to try to adapt.
Kasienka shows such courage and strength of character, despite her awful situation, that she becomes a great figure of inspiration by the end of the collection.

Although for me this is not a particularly important aspect of a book, I feel it must be mentioned; the book's cover art is, in my opinion, really attractive. Having worked in a bookshop for two years now, I have learned to recognise the styles of some of the major children's illustrators, so I was excited to receive a book like this, illustrated by the wonderful Oliver Jeffers, whose book Lost and Found is one of the prettiest picture books I've seen in a long time.
As I said, I don't feel that the cover art is usually an important part of the book, but I feel Oliver Jeffers is one worth mentioning.

Overall, I was surprised, after my initial expectations, by just how much I enjoyed reading this. It was beautiful, poignant, compelling and potent, and I think it will stay in my mind for quite some time yet. If you don't believe that a collection of poems could be this powerful, then definitely get yourself a copy and read it for yourself. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2012
As an educator, it is beautiful and rare to discover a book that handles bullying and exclusion so deftly and realistically. Kasienka is a protagonist who will empower young women who find themselves lost and navigating their own social worlds. This is a book that will remain with the reader, provide thoughtful discussion, and give opportunity for self-reflection and hope.

The writing is vivid and the voice is unique while remaining accessible; Kasienka's experiences are her own and keep the reader wondering where her journey will end, but the emotions she feels and portrays are universal. I think that it must be incredibly challenging to create a character who is so absolutely believable in her vulnerability, self-doubt, strength, and potential. A gorgeous debut!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2012
This was offered as part of the Kindle Daily Deal and so I thought I would only lose 99p if I didn't like it. But oh, I would gladly pay the full asking price. And I will recommend it to all my friends and family. And that is why I am bothering to write this review! The Weight of Water is quite simply a beautifully crafted mini-masterpiece. Don't let the fact that it is all in verse put you off; that is exactly why it is so marvellous. With the lightest touch Sarah Crossan sketches out exactly what it feels like to be teenaged and different. But it is also a story of quiet courage. Could somebody please use this as a set text in school; what better way to introduce poetry to teens? It is magical.
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on 20 May 2014
I read 'Breathe' and 'Resist' by Crossan and absolutely loved them so when I heard she had written something else I wanted to read it. So i put in a request at the library and waited for my copy to show up.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but was very surprised by what I got. The whole book was written in verse, I was tempted to just put it back without reading it, I'm not really into poetry or verse and have struggled with it in the past, but decided that it was worth a try.

It only took me an hour to read, and is very easy to get through. It took me a while to get used to the writing style but soon found myself racing through and I think it was very cleverly done.

Kasienka is polish, she has come to Coventry, England with her mum who is heartbroken but determine. Her dad left, only leaving them a note saying he was moving to England, so now her mum is determined to track him down. Leaving her home, family and friends is hard and fitting into a whole new school in a different country is hard too. Kasienka just wants to go home, but then she meets someone who makes her realise that life her could be good.

The story is very simply done and covers topics like immigration, bullying and separation. It's all done very well and gets the messages across without being offensive or too preachy.

I did find it a bit hard to relate to the character and her situation but it was cleverly done, certainly very different.

Good if you want a quick read with a different angle.
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The Weight of Water was published in 2012 and somehow completely passed me by. I have no idea how, as I love verse novels and always keep a beady eye out for any new ones. I had a strange year last year so I think I'll just put it down to that and say that I'm very glad I eventually acquired a copy!

As I mentioned, books written in verse are among my absolute favourites. I've never been a fan of poetry, or particularly good with it, but anything written in verse immediately clicks with me. I love how it flows and how it looks on the page and, even though some verse novels are short, it means that the story is often more concise and compact. The Weight of Water is utterly brilliant and I can't believe Sarah Crossan isn't more of an author superstar. She should be!

The Weight of Water is about Kasienka, a twelve-year-old polish girl who moves to England with her mother, in the hopes of finding her father. She doesn't fit in at school, is bullied and generally hates life in England. But then she meets William, makes a friend and realises that maybe life isn't so bad after all. Life is what you make it.

Kasienka experiences things that a lot of teenagers go through. Fitting in and bullying are, sadly, just two of the challenges that have to be faced at high school. Children can be mean, as depicted here in this book, but they can also be ignored and overcome. I love the realism that Sarah Crossan brings to Kasienka's story, the innocence that slowly fades as she sees the world for what it can really be like. She learns a lot during a few short months, but she's all the better for it.

The Weight of Water carries a feeling of sadness with it, a feeling of loss and heartbreak. It makes it even more beautiful, with its lyrical prose and breathtaking verse that lies on every page. It's a book to savour, to fully endure, right until the poignant last page. This is one of the most perfect debut novels I've ever read, made that much better by its realistic portrayal of coming of age and the obstacles that go hand in hand with entering our teenage years. Just read it and you'll see exactly what I mean.
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on 9 May 2013
Let me start out by saying that if, like me, you've been putting off reading this novel because it's written in verse, then I hope I can change your opinion! Because I ended up really enjoying this story. The writing style didn't once put me off and I became so wrapped up in Kasienka's life that I barely even noticed the fact it was in verse. I think it's just a beautifully written tale.

I really liked the themes tackled in this book and how you get to see them from Kasienka's perspective, who is a total innocent in the situation. She has to put up with being judged because of her background, being bullied at school and put into a lower year group because they assume she's stupid. At the same time she's struggling with the poor living conditions her and her mother are putting up with and how that affects her social life. Add in to that the hormonal trials of being a twelve/thirteen year old girl and she has to go through a lot.

I think, even though Kasienka's situation isn't something everyone will face, it still felt very relatable. There's those real life defining moments like your first love and wishing you fitted in. I thought it really beautifully and acurately captured the discoveries you go through during those school years.

I found Kasienka and her narration of the story to be really endearing. I loved the way she dealt with everything pretty head on. Her relationship with William, a guy who persuades her to take up swimming, was really sweet. I loved seeing the family dynamic between her and her mother as well.

I'm sure this is one of those novels, being written in verse, that you can read a lot more into if you go into it with that kind of analytical brain on. I could pick up a few of those deeper meanings myself but I wasn't really worrying about that, I was just enjoying getting swept up in the story. It's quite short and it was a quick read (I managed it in almost one sitting) so it's well worth giving a go.

I'll definitely continue to read books by this author and I'll certainly be open to reading verse novels in the future!
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on 3 April 2013
Alison for [...]
This is a book that is stunning in its simplicity. The writing, especially coming from a debut author is just exquisite. I originally bought this book for my school library as it was about a polish girl coming over to England and I work at a school with a large polish population. I thought it may be good for girls who had come over from Poland to relate to but really this book is so much more. I really didn't know what to expect from this book. I'd already read `Breathe' Sarah's other book but not really realized that both were by the same author as the books are so incredibly different, both in subject matter and writing style. I'd enjoyed `Breathe' but it hadn't quite lived up to the hype for me, in contrast `The Weight of Water' very definitely does.

This is a book written as poetry rather than prose. I'm one of those people who just doesn't `get' poetry and I normally avoid books like this like the plague, in fact the only time that I do read them is when they appear on the Carnegie Shortlist but this book was really a pleasant surprise. Telling the story of Kasienka, all from her point of view it covers, very sensitively, all sorts of issues that teens all over the world face. Family breakdown, isolation, bullying, first love and the building of new lives are all covered within the book. I did find the original premise a little unbelievable, that a mother would uproot their child from all that they knew to follow a man that had left without word with just a postmark to go on. But I think that may have been me reading the book as an adult rather than a child. I wanted to find out more about Kasienka's parents, but that was not something that Kasienka would know and this was her story not theirs, that would be what a teen girl would have been interested in and rightly so.

Kasienka is a strong central protagonist. Whilst we get a look into others lives this is her story not theirs. This works really well in adding to the feeling of alienation and isolation within the book, a very common feeling for many teens. That Kasienka comes from a different country and doesn't speak the language means that she finds understanding her peers very hard. These misunderstandings come from both language and cultural barriers, but again although they may be more pronounced in this case they work very well at showing the confusion of teens as they start to try to understand the world around them and their place within it.
`The Weight of Water' is an incredibly quick read, it only took me about 40 minutes to read, although running to over 200 pages the way the book is written mean that pages aren't filled. Yet what amazed me was the depth and range of feelings that the book provoked in me in that time, just because it is a quick read does make it shallow or superficial in any way. It is quite the opposite and I think that this is why the choice to write the book in poetry format really works.

Verdict: A beautifully written coming of age story, told in a very strong, very believable voice.
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