The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stambach, St Martin’s Press, Aug 16
Startlingly original and heartfelt. Stunted on the outside, brilliant on the inside, 17-year-old Ivan, who was born severely deformed, has only known the miserable and restricted life of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. He is the master of his domain, but it is a drab and depressing place where the carers are at best offhand and at worst cruel, while he struggles with his teenage feelings in his crippled body. He can only escape the hospital through books and his own thoughts – which are profound and wide-ranging. It seems like nothing will ever change – until Polina arrives. Orphaned and ill, she brings a breath of fresh air from the outside world, but she is trapped in different ways. Will she be absorbed by the hospital or help Ivan find his freedom? This book is difficult and tragic, but ultimately transcendent.