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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko PDF, ePub eBook In The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stambach presents a hilarious, heart-wrenching, and powerful debut novel about an orphaned boy who finds love and hope in a Russian hospital. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born deformed yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, strong int In The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stambach presents a hilarious, heart-wrenching, and powerful debut novel about an orphaned boy who finds love and hope in a Russian hospital. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born deformed yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, 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.

30 review for The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

  1. 4 out of 5

    LeAnne: GeezerMom

    How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence. - from Flowers for Algernon, 1966 I call bullsh#t. This book is nothing more than a freak show. But I am editing this review again in order to be more cogent and to warn the parents of children with special needs that this book may be upsetting. If you do not love somebody with a serious How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes—how such people think nothing of abusing a man born with low intelligence. - from Flowers for Algernon, 1966 I call bullsh#t. This book is nothing more than a freak show. But I am editing this review again in order to be more cogent and to warn the parents of children with special needs that this book may be upsetting. If you do not love somebody with a serious neurological or cognitive disability, just go ahead and skip this rant. You won't get it. My initial reaction (as a parent of a teenager with autism) was one of visceral outrage. By having the narrator be missing three limbs and be otherwise disfigured, this author (who in my opinion seems to display a different maturity than I find acceptable) gives himself license to make sport of the disabled en route to his ultimate supposedly lofty goal. Did he intend to mock severely autistic children? Surely not - I do not believe that. But he wrote the jokes for his hero to do precisely that - five different times. Hear my case. I was drawn to the story, just recently published, because its hero is a 17 year old with special needs. The book is set in a children's hospital/orphanage in Belarus years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The youngsters have all been damaged in some way because of radiation exposure. The hook for me was that in the blurbs, we readers supposedly learn that regardless of disability, an individual has the same romantic dreams as the rest of the population. It sounded like the book gave dignity to people with special needs. WRONG. In the story, the narrator - 17 year old Ivan Isaenko - has no cognitive or neurological impairments. He is brilliant, speaks and debates well, and is supposedly writing this book as a series of journal entries. Ivan, however, was born with no legs and only one arm. His hand is missing two fingers. He has a facial deformity to boot, and gauged as a monster by his mother, was abandoned at the hospital at birth. One automatically feels incredible compassion for the boy. That is, until he decides to describe other residents of the hospital. He says a child named Dennis is diagnosed with having no soul. Dennis, Ivan tells us, has a heartbeat and nothing else inside him. Dennis does nothing but rock back and forth all day, not speaking (he has classic autism). Ivan times Dennis's motions and then actually uses the boy's intervals of rocking as a sort of clock. Three sets of rocking? YAY - time for lunch! Ivan finds Dennis to be a very helpful device. It hurt to hear that, but assuming the Soviet hospitals at the time were like that with their diagnoses and the character is supposed to be a bitter teenager, I rolled with it. It did make me wonder if other people looked at my boy and thought that maybe he did not have a soul either. But then, a pair of ginger haired twin sisters - who do not make eye contact with others, who cannot speak, who act like the world around them is invisible (ie, classic autism again) - seem like a great target for Ivan to torment. His goal is to force them to react to outside stimuli - not because he wants to engage with the girls, but because if he can get some kind of reaction, he thinks he will be the hotshot of the ward. He does this by forcing the sisters to walk through a puddle of his spittle, by denying them a toilet for three days, and sneaking into their room (with one arm, mind you). While they sleep, he hacks off all their long, beautiful red hair and ties their feet together with it. Aren't these pranks hilarious? Unfortunately for Ivan, even denying the autistic girls access to a bathroom does not elicit a response - instead, the twins silently use bowls and cups from their meal trays as toilets. Boy, when the nurses find all those full bowls under the bed, won't it be a hoot? He also sees a new toddler added to the ward wearing diapers. Ivan wonders if he has the physical strength and agility to change the baby's diaper - not out of compassion (the nurses are very attentive to the baby) - but as a physical goal. Like training for a marathon. He later comes to care for the toddler but initially takes on the diapering idea mostly out of boredom. The only way Ivan can get himself up to the task is to train for it. He decides he should practice the skill by wearing a diaper himself - at age 17 - and to fill it with his own feces, then try to change it, get himself clean, and then hide the full diaper under a couch in the director's office (again with only one arm and no legs, mind you). There is ample description of "pudding" and "paste" in this section, and we readers are supposed to laugh. There are myriad hilarious poop and vomit jokes in the book, but here is a quickie excerpt: "I cringed as the warm paste spread over my (Russian for ass)... I used the towel in my room to clear out all the chocolate pudding that managed to coat every crack and contour that covered my backside... I immediately wished I had more towels and diapers." Ivan goes on to explain soaking the feces laden towel in his sink overnight and thus returning the towel to its normal light shade of brown. He gets rid of the fouled diaper by hiding it underneath the leather couch in the directors office after the staff has gone home for the night. Guess what? My child wore a diaper until age 11, and I know other youngsters in my community who will wear them their entire lives. The "funny" jokes about Alex, the boy with the gigantic hydrocephalic head who can only utter one word are wrapped around a child who grieves for his mother and father that love him, but who both die over time. There are some sad, poignant moments written in here, but the humor is still painful and for me - who knows kids just like these "low functioning" ones - unbearable. The mockery of this nonverbal little boy who sobs for his dead mom and dad was the last straw. I sobbed because the target reading audience is encouraged to snicker over making fun of these low functioning children. Again, I reiterate that unless you have a loved one who is cognitively or developmentally unable to defend himself - and who will likely spend most of his life in an institution - you might certainly empathize with my viewpoints, but thankfully, there is no way you can truly understand. It inflames me when supposedly well intended "special needs" stories end up showing how certain disabilities are still okay to mock. Yes, y'all - while I'm reacting emotionally, I am not entirely obtuse. I GET that this is a character speaking: a bitter 17 year old boy that is bullying and disregarding the kids with autism. I give five star ratings to books with hateful narrators all the time. But hello, Ivan is a ventriloquist's dummy. Ivan is not real. The protagonist never did grow to regret his actions and attitudes, never recanted. This author is showing us - by accident - that as a society, we need to empathize with those missing limbs or disfigurement and those with cancer. How kind. But no - I am wrong. Because this is a YA novel, the writer is selling these funny jokes played on autistics to teenagers and 20 somethings. Demographics in publishing show that more females than males purchase books, but in this story, a hideous boy is able to win the heart of a gorgeous, dying girl. If that is the target audience, then Stambach is in effect - and again, probably unintentionally - telling bitter boys that it is understandable to make fun of the nonverbal because your wit can win you the hot girl. There is no humanity inside people who are trapped inside themselves, according to Ivan, so the babes will not be bothered by how vicious you are. That the disfigured protagonist falls for a gorgeous girl with cancer, not a girl with some sort of exterior flaw (or god-forbid an intellectual disability or plain old autism) was a further disappointment. My final comment to the author, because I am the mother of a wonderful teenager with special needs - a boy just like Dennis (but WITH a soul), will indeed require a footnote for the term in Russian. Please remember that this review is an opinion. It says/suggests right up front: "If you do not love somebody with a serious neurological or cognitive disability, just go ahead and skip this rant."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    Update: The author of this book has repeatedly contacted a GR member, asking her to change a negative review, which he called "mean-spirited". On the exact same day that he sent his last message, this profile appeared on Goodreads. Her location is San Diego like the author, and she immediately added the author, before beginning to attack the aforementioned reviewer. She even accused the reviewer of wearing "the badge of your autistic son on your shirt like a good martyr". I don't know about you, Update: The author of this book has repeatedly contacted a GR member, asking her to change a negative review, which he called "mean-spirited". On the exact same day that he sent his last message, this profile appeared on Goodreads. Her location is San Diego like the author, and she immediately added the author, before beginning to attack the aforementioned reviewer. She even accused the reviewer of wearing "the badge of your autistic son on your shirt like a good martyr". I don't know about you, but this is a great way to make sure I never pick up one of his books again. Original post: I read this book. I enjoyed this book. I thought it was much more enjoyable than The Fault in Our Stars, which it is being compared to. But when I came to the Goodreads page to write my review, I saw this person's perspective on it: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... After that, I couldn't - in good conscience - write a positive review. I'll leave my rating as is, to reflect my initial experience, but that post really made me question how I viewed the story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    PLEaSE READ MY UPDATE AT PAGE BOTTOM This book, for me, pushed all the right buttons. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, I grimaced, I was filled with sadness and filled with wonder. What a poignant story, what a great character was Ivan. Born without legs, missing one arm, Ivan is at a severe disadvantage, he has lived as a full time resident at the Mazyr Hospital for gravely ill children in Belarus for his entire seventeen years. A victim of Chernobyl, he does not know who his mother is nor his fath PLEaSE READ MY UPDATE AT PAGE BOTTOM This book, for me, pushed all the right buttons. I laughed, I cried, I sighed, I grimaced, I was filled with sadness and filled with wonder. What a poignant story, what a great character was Ivan. Born without legs, missing one arm, Ivan is at a severe disadvantage, he has lived as a full time resident at the Mazyr Hospital for gravely ill children in Belarus for his entire seventeen years. A victim of Chernobyl, he does not know who his mother is nor his father. He does, however, have a wonderfully intelligent mind and after so long he thinks he has everything figured out, that is until a young girl with leukemia is admitted to the hospital. This relationship will change his life, cause him to branch out, reach out. Amazing darn story, tore at my heart and yet though it is a sad and hard book to read, Ivan is special, a very unusual and funny character. The tone of the novel never comes across as morose, always maintains its humor. Another wonderful character is Nurse Natalya, she makes Ivan's life special and meaningful. If anything this wonderful book shows how small kindnesses can make a huge difference and how one special person can change one's way of thinking, one's life. A very special book, a beautiful and hearfelt story. ARC from St. Martins Press. UPDATE First let me assure you I am a real person, have been on this site for many years, and as my friends know review many books. I feel that reviewing books is a privilege and an honor, sharing my thoughts with other like minded friends. That this site gives is the opportunity to do this is to me amazing. I do not like all the books I read, I have my own issues on things that make me uncomfortable. Find it amusing that as I have aged I have become somewhat of a wimpy reader, descriptions of graphic violence in fiction make me shudder, where once it really didn't bother me at all. But...... even when I don't like a book I am always very careful in my wording, pointing out that while this book did not work for me, it might for the next reader. We are all different, we should be or sites like this wouldn't work. I always keep in mind that a real person, a author has worked on this, probably for a very long time, This book is the product of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. This person did not put these scenes in just to vex me, it wasn't personal, this is his story, he can write it as he chooses. For readers who follow along blindly to someone's derogatory comments I just have this too say to you, book bashing is the same a book banning, book burning. Would you allow a book to be banned without reading it first? Are you the type of person that just follows someone blindly? As readers I think not, I certainly hope not, after all they do say readers are supposed to be smarter.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    In Belarus in 1988 a baby is born , suffering severe birth defects from the fallout of Chernobyl, probably one of many babies like this . We first meet Ivan when he's 17 and has lived his entire life at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children . He has never known his mother or father and isn't even sure of his birthday. While physically deformed and disabled, he is intelligent, has a sharp wit and is woefully lonely without any meaningful human interaction except for Nurse Natalya, whose big In Belarus in 1988 a baby is born , suffering severe birth defects from the fallout of Chernobyl, probably one of many babies like this . We first meet Ivan when he's 17 and has lived his entire life at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children . He has never known his mother or father and isn't even sure of his birthday. While physically deformed and disabled, he is intelligent, has a sharp wit and is woefully lonely without any meaningful human interaction except for Nurse Natalya, whose big heart allows Ivan to know what it mean to have someone care about you. The beautiful and critically ill, 15 year old Polina comes into Ivan's life . She gives him the stars , the outdoors, laughter, companionship, friendship and love and she is dying. In a journal style narrative, Ivan wants to tell us Polina's story and he does, but what happens is that Ivan tells us his story as well and becomes visible to us , not just to Natalya and Polina. We discover that he is bold and fearless in so many ways , yet vulnerable and innocent and afraid . I thought this book would probably make me cry and it did but I had no idea how much it would make me laugh. Ivan has the ability to feign a comatose state and in doing so , he becomes privy to everything that is going on , not just in the hospital but in the private lives of the nurses , details down to their sex lives . So I cried for Ivan and for Polina but laughed with them as well. This is not your average teenage love story and anyone who thinks this might be too YA for them, I would say give this story a chance . It's not just a teenage love story but so much more. 100% realistic? I don't know. I don't expect fiction to be factual all of the time . It only needs to be true , true to depicting a time and a place , true to depicting the effects of an event but mostly it needs to be true to me as a reader because of the real emotions it evokes. This story was true to me. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I feel like I've been sandblasted. This was a fantastic and devastatingly weird read at the same time. I can honestly say, I've never read anything like this. How did this happen? I despise YA (for those who know me) but was enraptured by this story; this brilliant and endearing character. Ivan Isanko, 17 year's old, lives in a children's hospital due to the physical deformity he was born with because of Chernobyl. Yet, even with the physical challenges, he possesses an intelligence that is clev I feel like I've been sandblasted. This was a fantastic and devastatingly weird read at the same time. I can honestly say, I've never read anything like this. How did this happen? I despise YA (for those who know me) but was enraptured by this story; this brilliant and endearing character. Ivan Isanko, 17 year's old, lives in a children's hospital due to the physical deformity he was born with because of Chernobyl. Yet, even with the physical challenges, he possesses an intelligence that is clever, witty, sarcastic and downright mean as can be seen by his systematic hierarchy he developed for the patients he lives with. But, the unthinkable happens - he falls in love. With Polina, another patient who has arrived suffering from leukemia. A bond is formed. Then a tragedy. I came to adore the clever Ivan for all his faults, which may have been many but were a means of survival for him. A mocking sense of humour but a caring child who suffered from neglect and was powerless to leave as much as he fantasized about it. His relationships - that which were two-are the fuel that fed his soul. Remarkable is the one word I can use to describe this book that has left me with a small whole in my heart. 5* thank you Angela M & Diane for putting this one on my radar.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    The narration is fresh. Ivan's voice is rare. The reader will notice 'something different' right away......very unique style of storytelling. As far as Ivan himself....he is 17 years old and has spent his entire life growing up in a children's hospital in Russia. He was born with severe physical abnormalities. His only real comfort for the longest time is books. ( and a favorite elderly nurse who brings him books). His body is deformed - but his mind is sharp. He basically can't stand most peopl The narration is fresh. Ivan's voice is rare. The reader will notice 'something different' right away......very unique style of storytelling. As far as Ivan himself....he is 17 years old and has spent his entire life growing up in a children's hospital in Russia. He was born with severe physical abnormalities. His only real comfort for the longest time is books. ( and a favorite elderly nurse who brings him books). His body is deformed - but his mind is sharp. He basically can't stand most people, until a new patient named Polina arrives. She has cancer - But a relationship between them develops. ( refreshing and unique as the narration) The themes are heartbreaking - but not only is there a balance of warmth - humor- heart - and purpose -- one actually needs to experience the 'way' Scott Stambach delivers this tale to see its just not the same story as "The Fault of Our Stars", or "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest",...yet this novel is equally as witty, smart, and tragic. A tribute to the indomitable human spirit. Thank You St. Marin's Press, Netgalley, and Scott Stambach

  7. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    The Invisible Life of Ivan Isianko is original, clever, heartbreaking and quite funny -- pretty good ingredients for a novel. It's written in the form of a first person narrative, from the point of view of severely disabled 17 year old Ivan. Ivan has lived in a children's hospital in Belarus his whole life. His body is seriously deformed but his mind is whip smart. He purportedly recounts the last few days of another resident's life -- Polina -- but really he tells his own sad life story, depict The Invisible Life of Ivan Isianko is original, clever, heartbreaking and quite funny -- pretty good ingredients for a novel. It's written in the form of a first person narrative, from the point of view of severely disabled 17 year old Ivan. Ivan has lived in a children's hospital in Belarus his whole life. His body is seriously deformed but his mind is whip smart. He purportedly recounts the last few days of another resident's life -- Polina -- but really he tells his own sad life story, depicting life in the children's hospital, and his brief intense relationship with Polina. Fed a steady stream of classic literature by one of the nurses, Ivan's reference points are often literary, and he has a good sense of drama, sarcasm and pathos. Ivan's insightful mind and inner life are likely quite unrealistic and very much the stuff of fiction -- but this is awfully good fiction. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read and advance copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Ivan narrates his life while living in a home for gravely ill children filled with children born with all kinds of conditions due to the Chernobyl incident. In this book you will find love, hope, humanity.. mostly you will take away the love..

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aditi

    “You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ----Dr. Seuss Scott Stambach, an American author, pens his debut young adult novel, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko that is centered around a teenage born physically deformed boy living in a church-funded hospital in Belarus along side with other sick and handicapped children. The author weaves a sweet love story of this boy who is frustrated with the people and the limited world around h “You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ----Dr. Seuss Scott Stambach, an American author, pens his debut young adult novel, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko that is centered around a teenage born physically deformed boy living in a church-funded hospital in Belarus along side with other sick and handicapped children. The author weaves a sweet love story of this boy who is frustrated with the people and the limited world around him. Synopsis: A hilarious, heart wrenching, and powerful debut novel about a disabled boy who finds love and hope in a Russian hospital. Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born severely deformed, yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, 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. That is until the seventeen-year-old Polina arrives at the hospital. At first, Ivan resents Polina. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. But eventually, he is drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. And now Ivan wants something, whereas before he survived by being utterly detached from things and people: Ivan wants Polina to live. As long as he can remember, Ivan Isaenko has forever lived in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus, who is born as physically handicapped with a rather sharp mind thereby making him wheel chair bound. His only friends in this hospitals are books and an aged nurse who takes care of him. Everyday is same as per him, until Polina, a beautiful girl with cancer arrives at the hospital. And there begins the most heart touching love story between these two souls, where one is fighting against a deadly life-threatening disease although when she knows that she has only few months to live by, and another who knows that his deformity will never let him live freely or happily. So now Ivan only has one wish that is Polina to beat cancer. From the synopsis, the book sounds a bit like John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars, but trust me, this book is nowhere closer to TFIOS. This book has its own charm, wit and flair that will simply leave the readers feeling entertained as well as moved. The story is told from a seventeen year old physically handicapped boy with a clever mind's, who only likes to read, voice and oh my his constantly cynical and emotional narrative simply captivated my soul and instantly made me fall for this unusual character and his life story. The author's writing style is brilliant and is laced with a myriad of emotions that range of being funny to being sad, and the readers are bound to sway along with its flow. The pacing is fast as the short entries of the protagonist makes it easier for the readers to move fast from one scene to another. The narrative, as I already said earlier, that it is something magical that will immediately arrest the minds of the readers with the depth of emotions within it, but is also laced with local Russian dialect with its properly explained translation done at the bottom of the page, hence this is the part which will enlighten the readers thoroughly. The story, right in the very beginning, opens bit sadly, but as the story progresses, the readers will be forced to laugh out loud with Ivan's sarcastic remarks and sometimes will be forced to cry out loud with the enduring pain in Ivan's life. The love story between the two characters is developed with lots of compassion and innocence in the beginning, but with time, their relationship turns serious thereby physical intimacy grow between them, which are depicted with enough passion that will make the readers not only feel the heat but will also contemplate with their strong bond of trust and friendship. The characters are not only well developed but are also portrayed with their flaws thereby making them look authentic in the eyes of the readers. The main character, Ivan, is the star of this book, he lights up the whole story like a fourth of July night with his casual, honest, charming, smart and unusual demeanor. I can bet that no reader has ever come across a protagonist who is so well-read and who understands and sees things with a rather unlikely perspective thereby adding an extra allure to those things or events. While reading, not once, I judged that this boy is physically handicapped as his voice is so flawless, polished and feels like someone well-educated human being is talking. The readers will see Polina through Ivan's eyes and she is also portrayed as someone fearless, carefree and a bit tomboyish yet she has her owns flaws and illness to think about. The author also manages to project so many important themes through this story like Russian politics, literature, religious and atheist beliefs, medical science and its shortcomings, which will make the readers ponder about after the end of the book, but honestly, the afterglow will definitely come from this satisfying yet heart-breaking love story between Ivan and Polina. In a nutshell, this engrossing story is a must read for all YA readers as well as for the literary fiction readers that is centered around a character which is hard to forget about even after the end of this enthralling story. Verdict: In this season, this poignant book certainly can't be missed by the readers which is so much deep in emotions, love and knowledge. Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Scott Stambach, for giving me an opportunity to read and review an ARC of his book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ The Foreword from the “editor” and the Epilogue (at the end, of course) refer to Ivan’s real story and the dates that this took place, so it must be real, mustn’t it? Just to be sure, when I finished this remarkable book, I had to go back and read the disclaimer again. You know, the one we skim over at the beginning of a novel: “This is a work of fiction . . . “ But it’s a work of fiction the same as M*A*S*H is fiction. Raw, hilarious, sad, fist-shakingly frustrating! The same kind of far-fetche 5★ The Foreword from the “editor” and the Epilogue (at the end, of course) refer to Ivan’s real story and the dates that this took place, so it must be real, mustn’t it? Just to be sure, when I finished this remarkable book, I had to go back and read the disclaimer again. You know, the one we skim over at the beginning of a novel: “This is a work of fiction . . . “ But it’s a work of fiction the same as M*A*S*H is fiction. Raw, hilarious, sad, fist-shakingly frustrating! The same kind of far-fetched characters and situations that are not really as far-fetched as we’d like to think. Trauma, injustice and humour. How is it possible? I just loved it. Frankly, I’d be perfectly comfortable never thinking about the human fall-out of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but that is a terrible attitude. The truth is, there must be plenty of damaged children like Ivan who have been hidden, so Scott Stambach has created such an engaging character that it’s impossible to look away. A baby is apparently deposited at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children--those kids who are seriously ill or deformed from radiation poisoning. Boys are given a name beginning with I, hence Ivan Isaenko. The hospital files have no record of his birth date or parents, but as Ivan grows up, he imagines conversations with his mother, a slightly bossy woman who pipes up now and then in his head, warning him to be careful or not to make a fool of himself. He decides to write a journal to share his past (what little there is of it) and his secrets. He has plenty of those. He steals vodka (from offices, linen cupboards) that helps him sleep, and regularly gets up to mischief during “anarchy hour” between 5am and 6am when he discovers the hole in the hospital roster that means no nurses are on duty. He’s got full run of the place, although “run” is hardly appropriate for a boy with no legs who's stuck in a wheelchair he can roll using only his one arm. Nurse Natalya is motherly. Others are unsuitable to varying degrees—drinkers, bullies, having an affair with the boss . . . and so on. He plays the staff mercilessly, pretending to be catatonic so he can eavesdrop and then devising ways to use the information to his advantage. But he didn’t fool them all. “Early on, Nurse Natalya caught on that I was faking my comas and gently made me aware of her acuity in a way that resonated perfectly with her. she put a picture of a famous (and very naked) Belarusian actress in my field of vision and said tauntingly: ‘Pretty girl, huh, Ivan? Such a beautiful naked woman, eh?’ And then while my attention was firmly embedded in that picture, glued by every ounce of my helplessly horny, adolescent, sex-deprived being, she yanked it out into my peripheral. Inevitably, my supposedly comatose eyes lustfully followed the image, and my game was revealed.” He’s a child when we first meet him, but as you can see from the above, he becomes an older teenager, with all the growing pains and joys of puberty that that entails. Polina is a pretty new leukaemia patient, and Ivan becomes fascinated with her. His various ploys to ignore people so they won’t notice him don’t always work on her—she’s a pretty smart cookie—and their interaction is a lot of fun, in spite of the deformities and deadly disease. Yeah, I know. Who’d have thought it possible to make it funny? As I said, I find a lot of the same appeal as M*A*S*H, in that the suffering is man-made and life goes on no matter what, sadness, pain, love and humour. Wonderful story. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the review copy from which I’ve quoted. (Quotes may have changed in the published edition)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Idarah

    “There are many themes in Ivan’s story as there are pages. It is at once a love story, a revelation of the dark legacy of the Soviet experiment, a conversation on medical ethics, a reproach of religious hypocrisy, and an admonition against choosing fear over purpose. But, ultimately, it is simply the story of a single human life, within which so much can be held. We hope the reader can pause to appreciate that fact.” —James C. Begley, 2014 Begley finds the remnants of Ivan’s journal in what remai “There are many themes in Ivan’s story as there are pages. It is at once a love story, a revelation of the dark legacy of the Soviet experiment, a conversation on medical ethics, a reproach of religious hypocrisy, and an admonition against choosing fear over purpose. But, ultimately, it is simply the story of a single human life, within which so much can be held. We hope the reader can pause to appreciate that fact.” —James C. Begley, 2014 Begley finds the remnants of Ivan’s journal in what remains of a Belarusian children’s hospital, and sets about translating the document into English. In Ivan’s words, he pens the story of his invisible existence within the walls of the hospital, a haven for abandoned children with congenital disorders and malformations as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Ivan’s solitary life, and his descriptions of the children that live in his ward are at turns hilarious and heartbreaking. I can see why it’s compared to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His routine cabbage soup existence is turned on its head the day Polina Puskin comes to stay at the hospital. What ensues is a beautiful story of friendship, love and loss. I listened to the audible edition, which was wonderfully cast. Oddly enough, I was in a minor fender bender with the last three minutes of this audio book hanging in the balance. An idiot ran a red light and I managed to swerve enough to avoid t-boning him, but couldn’t avoid impact. Yes my car needs repairs, and I’ve been without a car for a week (I just managed to get a rental from his insurance company yesterday), but what most upset me when I tried to move my car off the roadway, was that he had totally made me lose my train of thought at the most critical point of the book. Grrrr! That aside, this is a must read! I know some blurbs called this the new Fault in Our Stars and I don’t really agree with that because…I didn’t much care for that book. I think it’s unique in its own right and deserves to be categorized as a work of fiction that will appeal to many people regardless of their age.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    Very highly-rated on GR, this book didn't really work for me. I was unable to make the jump and go along for the ride with the often mean-spirited, yet unbelievably intelligent and snarky protagonist. Much of the content felt intentionally manipulative to me therefore I was unable to connect to the characters. I wanted to, believe me. I listened to the audio and many of the Russian words were mispronounced...most notably some very famous author's names. Though it didn't impact the story, it seem Very highly-rated on GR, this book didn't really work for me. I was unable to make the jump and go along for the ride with the often mean-spirited, yet unbelievably intelligent and snarky protagonist. Much of the content felt intentionally manipulative to me therefore I was unable to connect to the characters. I wanted to, believe me. I listened to the audio and many of the Russian words were mispronounced...most notably some very famous author's names. Though it didn't impact the story, it seemed odd. I also felt many Russian words were used unnecessarily and some were overused. No one wants to hear the word хуй that often. This one just wasn't for me. 2.5 stars

  13. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    "...from what little I know of the outside world, I am fairly certain that my comrades and I live in hell. For most of us, the hell is in our bodies; for others, the hell is in our heads. And there is no mistaking that, for each of us, hell is in the empty, clinical, perfectly adequate, smudgy, off-white brick walls that hold us in here. In spite of my intelligence, I'm forced to accept that I'm one of the lucky ones." Ivan Isaenko has lived at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belar "...from what little I know of the outside world, I am fairly certain that my comrades and I live in hell. For most of us, the hell is in our bodies; for others, the hell is in our heads. And there is no mistaking that, for each of us, hell is in the empty, clinical, perfectly adequate, smudgy, off-white brick walls that hold us in here. In spite of my intelligence, I'm forced to accept that I'm one of the lucky ones." Ivan Isaenko has lived at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus since he was born 17 years ago. While he suffers from significant physical disabilities, his intellect and his sense of humor are sharp, so he spends his monotonous days reading any book his favorite nurse, Natalya, brings him, and he keenly observes what is going on and being discussed around him, often faking a catatonic state so he can eavesdrop on conversations among doctors and nurses. And when those activities don't satisfy him, he uses his condition to manipulate those around him, much to the significant aggravation of the nurses and the hospital's cantankerous director. Given his disabilities, Ivan knows he'll never live the type of life he reads about in books or watches on old television shows during TV time each day. He never knew his parents, since they abandoned him shortly after birth. He knows he'll never fall in love or have a relationship with a woman. Most of all, he knows he'll never leave the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, unless it's after his death. But if it's any consolation, he has the whole system in the hospital figured out—he can tell before almost anyone which of his fellow patients have less than three months to live based on the medicines they're allotted. And then Polina arrives. Polina is beautiful. Polina once had parents, a boyfriend, a life outside the hospital, but after her parents' death and her leukemia diagnosis, she has nothing. Ivan is immediately bewitched by her beauty, her intelligence, and her spirit, but he is too afraid to even look at her for fear she will be repulsed by his physical condition. Yet little by little, the two people who decided to never let anyone in begin to trust each other, and develop a relationship of sorts which challenges them both. Suddenly, Ivan has transformed from someone who never really wanted anything to someone who wants one thing only: he wants Polina to live. As you might imagine, a book taking place in a hospital for gravely ill children definitely has some emotional undertones, but for the most part, Scott Stambach is careful to keep the story from becoming too maudlin. There is more than enough sly humor, talk (and descriptions) of blood and other bodily secretions, obsession with sex (much like you'd expect from any 17-year-old), and fighting against authority to lighten the mood now and again. While some of the characters are little more than caricatures of typical Soviet Bloc-type people, Ivan, Polina, Natalya, and, to a smaller extent, the hospital director, are fascinating, complex characters. This is a funny, sarcastic, thought-provoking, and moving book, and you find yourself becoming invested in Ivan's story even as you know how it will unfold. I thought the book started fairly slowly and took a while to pick up steam; while reading the first quarter of the book or so I wondered if I should keep reading. But once Polina appeared in the story, the plot really took shape, and Ivan went from becoming a quirky, slightly annoying (yet sympathetic) character to a fully realized character, one who was very interesting. Being a sap, I definitely teared up at times reading this, but it wasn't a depressing read, just an enjoyable, sweet one. (The one thing that makes me bristle, however, is the marketing ploy that calls this book The Feault in Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest . No, no, a thousand times, no.) NetGalley and St. Martin's Press provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dorie - Traveling Sister :)

    If I could give this book a 10* rating I would! I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to my many Goodreads friends’ reviews of this book I was looking forward to this read. What I didn’t expect was the incredible story, the emotion, the heartbreak, the laughter and the very unique style of writing in this debut novel from Scott Stambach. We are introduced to Ivan as he is 17 and writing his journal while living in The Mazyr Hospit If I could give this book a 10* rating I would! I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to my many Goodreads friends’ reviews of this book I was looking forward to this read. What I didn’t expect was the incredible story, the emotion, the heartbreak, the laughter and the very unique style of writing in this debut novel from Scott Stambach. We are introduced to Ivan as he is 17 and writing his journal while living in The Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Ivan has lived here all of his life and has very few memories from his childhood. He was born with severe birth defects, the fallout from the Chernobyl accident probably the cause. He has never met his mother or father. Though he is severely disabled physically he is extremely intelligent and has spent his years self educating himself with books provided by a very caring nurse, Nurse Natalya, who has a big heart and has always looked out for Ivan. He’s never had a friend but he demonstrates his huge heart as he learns how to diaper a severely deformed baby and takes it upon himself to look out for him. His life is a pattern of getting up, dressing, eating, watching TV, sometimes faking a coma like state to allow him to listen in to conversations among the staff of nurses, doctors and other care givers, he learns a lot by listening! On a day like no other he observes a beautiful young woman being admitted to the hospital and is determined to find out her story. As he gets closer to Polina she gets him to feel emotions he never had before, she introduces the out of doors to Ivan where before the nurses could never get him to venture out of the hospital. She opens his eyes to the stars, friendship, companionship, love and sexual desire. She is dying. This book is so well written it reads as a real journal written by one of the most unique and wonderful characters I’ve ever met. I know this is said often but I truly could not put this book down. There is also an underlying mystery of exactly where Ivan came from which Polina helps him solve. The exploits that the two of them get into made me laugh out loud but I also felt sadness because I knew that this friendship already had “an expiration” date. In reading an interview with the author, Scott Stambach, I learned that his inspiration for the book came from watching a documentary made in 2003 called, “Chernobyl Heart”, which took the viewers into hospitals in the Ukraine and Belarus where there were children suffering from radiation related illnesses as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It made him think that “the kids in the film had the same instincts and dreams as any other young people” and this book is the result of that inspiration. I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to read some great fiction that will make you feel emotions that you didn’t even know you had, sadness that there are children like this, hope that there will never be such a disaster again and wonder at the human spirit and drive in all of us. I am so thankful for the opportunity to read this great debut novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)

    I thought about this book for a few days before writing this review. This novel will not be for everyone and aspects of it are not pleasant to read. This story tugged at my heart and made me think about how important it is to have parents in your life. Everyone deserves to feel loved regardless of how they look. Ivan is a severely disfigured young adult due to radiation exposure from Chernobyl. He has never met his parents or any of his family. The Mazyr Hospital has been Ivan’s home for his enti I thought about this book for a few days before writing this review. This novel will not be for everyone and aspects of it are not pleasant to read. This story tugged at my heart and made me think about how important it is to have parents in your life. Everyone deserves to feel loved regardless of how they look. Ivan is a severely disfigured young adult due to radiation exposure from Chernobyl. He has never met his parents or any of his family. The Mazyr Hospital has been Ivan’s home for his entire life. He has witnessed children come and go within the hospital for various ailments. He is bright and his mind is sharp but does not really like people. He lives a mundane existence with the same daily routine, food choices, television hours etc.. Ivan has not had relationships with people other than with his nurses and relies upon the books he reads for information. His outlook on life changes when a new female patient with cancer arrives, Polina. During the first part of the novel, you are introduced to Ivan’s life, those who helps take care of him, and how he spends his days. It is a bleak life with no formal schooling or social interaction with peers. The book really takes off when he meets Polina. Ivan is intrigued by her, and a romance slowly starts. The once detached Ivan who never thought past his daily life, now has purpose. This is a debut novel by the author. https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved... 4 signed copies being given away on my blog until 12/ 30 https://www.facebook.com/suzyapproved...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    ***this book was released today--do yourself a favor and get it NOW!!! Wow. What a book. Actually, I wouldn't call The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko just a book, it's more on the level of well crafted literature. You don't just read it, you savor the words and get lost in the storytelling. And, what more can you really ask for in a book? The book is the story of Ivan, who is a resident in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill children in the former Soviet Union. Ivan, age 17, was born with a connec ***this book was released today--do yourself a favor and get it NOW!!! Wow. What a book. Actually, I wouldn't call The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko just a book, it's more on the level of well crafted literature. You don't just read it, you savor the words and get lost in the storytelling. And, what more can you really ask for in a book? The book is the story of Ivan, who is a resident in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill children in the former Soviet Union. Ivan, age 17, was born with a connective tissue disorder, "in addition to several other genetic abnormalities" including having only one arm (with two fingers and a thumb) and no legs. Ivan's condition was caused by radiation released into the atmosphere following the explosion of a nuclear reactor (think Chernobyl) and he has been a resident of the hospital since he was an infant. Ivan's story is told by Ivan himself in the form of a diary. Here's a small portion: "I need to share this place with you, Reader. I need to share my friends who I would never admit were my friends. I need to share my beloved with you, who I would never admit I loved. For if I don’t document our world right now, on this ambiguously stained paper, with my fading pen, in my delirious left-handed penmanship, we will risk fading into the foam of history without mention. Reader, I hope after this you understand that we are entitled to more than that." As you can see, the writing is smart, exquisite, and that is the heart of this book. I'll refrain from going into plot details--I don't think I can do it justice and this is a book that you should experience, and savor, for yourself. I don't think this has ever happened to me before like this, but I just finished this book and I miss Ivan, I really do. I can't recommend this book highly enough. This is the debut novel of Scott Stambach and I so look forward to reading whatever he comes out with next. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Heart wrenchingly honest glimpse into the life of a boy. A boy who's physical disabilities have trapped him in a life he can't escape... until a girl opens his eyes and heart to love. I thought that the journal format worked so well in capturing the essence of Ivan and the battles he faced. Through these struggles he comes to understand how to care, to love and, most of all, to be 'seen'. 4 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ 3.5 Stars “The world needs happy endings, no matter how unethical.” – Vladimir Navokov The blurb states . . . . “The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” My response to that? Maybe more like The Fault In Our Stars meets Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, ya know if the children were terminally ill rather than strangely gifted and you only really got to know two of them in depth. I’m going to let the boo Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/ 3.5 Stars “The world needs happy endings, no matter how unethical.” – Vladimir Navokov The blurb states . . . . “The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” My response to that? Maybe more like The Fault In Our Stars meets Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, ya know if the children were terminally ill rather than strangely gifted and you only really got to know two of them in depth. I’m going to let the book do most of the talking on this one. Allow me to introduce you to Ivan . . . . “I’m seventeen years old, approximately male, and I live in an asylum for mutant children.” (No, not like the X-Men.) “My body is horribly incomplete. I only have one arm (my left), and the hand attached to the end of it is deficient in digits (I have two fingers and a thumb). The rest of my appendages are short, asymmetrical nubs that wiggle with fantastic effort. My skin is nearly transparent, revealing the intricate tapestry of my underutilized veins. The muscles in my face are only loosely connected to my brain, resulting in a droopy, flat affect, which makes me look like an idiot, especially when I talk.” As for the comparison to John Green. Yes, it exists. The difference is you know from the beginning that one of the two young loves is dead and the attitude toward their blossoming romance is waaaaaaay more realistic . . . . “If we weren’t in this hospital and you saw me in a restaurant, you would be just beautiful enough to be disgusted by me and just soulful enough to pity me.” As for the story itself . . . . “There are as many themes in Ivan’s story as there are pages. It is at once a love story, a revelation of the dark legacy of the Soviet experiment, a conversation on medical ethics, a reproach of religious hypocrisy, and an admonition against choosing fear over purpose. But, ultimately, it is simply the story of a single human life, within which so much can be held.” I will be 100% honest here and say if I were a person with the ability to “DNF” I would have done so with this book. Not a whole lot happens during the first half and even though I think it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with Ivan, his personality and storytelling wasn’t enough to make this read at any faster than a snail’s pace. Buuuuuuuuuuut, if you keep with it you’ll not only get plenty of hardy-hars – like the moment when Ivan catches the hospital director and a nurse in flagrante delicto . . . . “My first instinct was to mentally ridicule the unkempt and voluminous nature of Nurse Lyudmila’s genital hair.” And maybe even have a feeling or two . . . “Ivan?” “Yes?” “How do you even start a book you know is going to be your last?” “You lie and say it’s not.” ♫♪♫♪ Take another little piece of my heart now, baby. ♫♪♫♪ My friend Michelle gave me the okay to quit on this one and was even kind enough to say maybe I wasn’t reading it wrong. (Spoiler Alert: I still probably read it wrong.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars Ivan has spent all of his 17 years in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born with severe physical deformities, he has a clever wit and a sharp mind. He’s inquisitive and very well read. He has one favorite nurse, Natalya, and little use for anyone else. Occasionally he pretends to be in a coma, allowing drool to hang from his mouth for the chance to stare, imagining himself to be unobserved. This amuses him. The nurses chatter, spill secrets, some about the other p 4.5 Stars Ivan has spent all of his 17 years in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born with severe physical deformities, he has a clever wit and a sharp mind. He’s inquisitive and very well read. He has one favorite nurse, Natalya, and little use for anyone else. Occasionally he pretends to be in a coma, allowing drool to hang from his mouth for the chance to stare, imagining himself to be unobserved. This amuses him. The nurses chatter, spill secrets, some about the other patients and some about themselves, because they think he’s beyond listening. He loves to stir things up, to aggravate the nurses. This momentarily relieves his boredom. It took a while before I felt fully engaged in the story. In the beginning, there’s sameness to each day (because, obviously, Ivan’s day involves that sameness), which began to wear on me. And then, Polina arrives. When Polina arrives, he watches her somewhat from afar, from his chair. She’s different, more alive. Beautiful. She doesn’t seem to belong there, but clearly she must, people don’t move in to the Mazyr Hospital for the atmosphere. Once he realizes she has leukemia, he becomes her champion. He knows he can never have the life he wishes for, so he puts his energy into helping her beat this thing trying to take her life. Polina is a fragile being even when she doesn’t realize it. Like Ivan she’s a bit edgy in her ways, trying to project a fearless image, her somewhat sarcastic wit matching his cynical, emotionally revealing thoughts. She shares her music, he shares his books. She shares her stories, piece by piece. He has no real story; he has no parents that he knows of. But, still, she sees the real Ivan, and Ivan sees the real Polina. They see themselves in each other. It’s amazing, sometimes amusing, so much heart this boy Ivan has with so much against him. Yet, when he sees something he views as pure and good, he not only recognizes it, he holds onto it. He’s all teenage boy one minute, and a gallant knight on a white horse the next. It’s heartbreakingly sweet and tender one minute and filled with filled with teenaged fantasies the next. It all balances out, the humor, the warmth and tenderness that develops as this unconventional love story develops. This boy that had never allowed himself to want beyond the comfort of a moment, unexpectedly has a goal for the future. And once Ivan has his purpose, he will not be deterred. He writes, with great difficulty, on the pages that become the story of his life, of Polina’s life, of love in this most unlikely of places. These pages that tell their story. He must tell her story, their story, so the world will come to know her, so that they will know, will remember. Occasionally droll, sometimes charming, always heartfelt debut novel, which serves as a reminder of what is important in life, it’s simple. It’s love. Pub Date: 9 August 2016 Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and to author Scott Stambach for providing me with an advanced copy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    All.The.Feels! I laughed, I cried, I got pissed, I cried some more, I laughed some more and mostly I just wanted to give Ivan a hug. Ivan was born in 1987 to unknown parentage and has lived his whole life in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. From the result of nuclear fallout Ivan only has the equivalent of half a body. What he lacks in body parts he makes up for with his heart and his brain. He is super smart. Polina enters the Hospital because she is dying of leukemia. With the help o All.The.Feels! I laughed, I cried, I got pissed, I cried some more, I laughed some more and mostly I just wanted to give Ivan a hug. Ivan was born in 1987 to unknown parentage and has lived his whole life in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. From the result of nuclear fallout Ivan only has the equivalent of half a body. What he lacks in body parts he makes up for with his heart and his brain. He is super smart. Polina enters the Hospital because she is dying of leukemia. With the help of a special nurse Ivan and Polina develop a very special friendship that will absolutely break your heart. This is a wonderful book that deals with a bunch of complicated issues. I highly recommend this one even if you don't typically read YA. This reads like adult fiction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    "Life is unbearable, but it has the benefit of being real." This book. Wow. It made me cry. Ivan is a highly intelligent young man trapped in a severely disabled body , the result of radiation from Chernobyl. The author presents a fully realised character in Ivan: " (God) put such a big life into such a small, broken box." He is also trapped in a home for gravely ill children where he has lived his whole life. His inner world is very different to his real one and the games he creates, the way he ma "Life is unbearable, but it has the benefit of being real." This book. Wow. It made me cry. Ivan is a highly intelligent young man trapped in a severely disabled body , the result of radiation from Chernobyl. The author presents a fully realised character in Ivan: " (God) put such a big life into such a small, broken box." He is also trapped in a home for gravely ill children where he has lived his whole life. His inner world is very different to his real one and the games he creates, the way he makes sense of his life and gives it meaning, is what keeps him sane. Ivan has one meaningful relationship with Nurse Natalya until the arrival of Polina, when his life becomes more exciting and real and wakes him up. In her he finds some-one to whom he can relate. This is a wonderful and poignant story, heart wrenching and yet inspirational. Make sure the tissues are nearby before you start reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    Scott Stambach has written an incredibly moving story, laced with dark humor. Ivan Isaenko is a seventeen-year-old boy who has lived his whole life in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. About 60% of the nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986 landed in Belarus, and Ivan was born with significant physical disabilities. But he is mentally sharp, loves to read, has a wicked sense of humor, and a fascination with sexuality. Ivan had spent his whol Scott Stambach has written an incredibly moving story, laced with dark humor. Ivan Isaenko is a seventeen-year-old boy who has lived his whole life in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. About 60% of the nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in 1986 landed in Belarus, and Ivan was born with significant physical disabilities. But he is mentally sharp, loves to read, has a wicked sense of humor, and a fascination with sexuality. Ivan had spent his whole life in the hospital and had no family to visit him. The warm, motherly nurse, Natalya, gives him some loving attention and supplies him with books and games. Ivan's life changes when Polina, an orphaned teen with leukemia, enters the hospital. She's beautiful and sassy, and makes an emotional connection with Ivan. Their relationship is sweet and funny, and touches the heart. Ivan narrates the story about their interactions--two people in challenging circumstances who need love, and hope for a medical miracle. Once Polina comes into the picture, the book is hard to put down. The author writes with compassion, humor, and lots of heart. While Ivan does not always act in a politically correct manner, the point is that Ivan is a victim who has been warehoused in a poorly run hospital and acts out in response to this neglect and lack of love. Highly recommended. The author was inspired to write this book after viewing the documentary called "Chernobyl Heart". Here's an interesting author's note from his website: http://scottstambach.com/book/authors... Thank you to Goodreads First Reads, Scott Stambach, and St Martin's Press for the advance readers' edition in return for an honest opinion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    TL

    I received this via Goodreads FirstReads in exchange for an honest review. --- did enjoy at the time but after a certain something, taking down my review. decide for yourself if you want to read it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Britany

    Ivan Isaenko is in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. It's the only place he's ever been in the world, as he is a deformed shell left for dead at the home. No family, no friends, and just the other crew of patients and nurses that feed his knowledge for the outside world. Ivan's world runs like clockwork until Polina enters. Ivan cannot quickly place her into his categories for the other patients and they both become interested in the other. Polina has leukemia and has lost Ivan Isaenko is in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. It's the only place he's ever been in the world, as he is a deformed shell left for dead at the home. No family, no friends, and just the other crew of patients and nurses that feed his knowledge for the outside world. Ivan's world runs like clockwork until Polina enters. Ivan cannot quickly place her into his categories for the other patients and they both become interested in the other. Polina has leukemia and has lost both her parents in a tragic accident. Both are all alone in the world and come together to make sense of life, friendship, and death. Written in journal format directly to the reader forces the reader to sort out what is happening to these characters as it occurs. The setting is tragic with starkly white walls, hospital gowns, evil nurses, and even I started to smell ammonia as I continued reading. I would be completed cold-hearted if I said I didn't feel anything for this tragic story, however I just didn't connect with this book. I kept reading hoping for a moment, a glimmer, a sentence... which never came. Parts of the writing were cringe-worthy, crass, and real-- certainly relating to an adolescent boy as he discovers himself. A heart breakingly sad story that ultimately just didn't work well for me. Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I keep rereading the forward in an effort to understand if this is a true story and it appears that it is. I'm totally shaken and in tears as I finish reading the last pages. Here is a story of a 17 year old young man, Ivan, severely handicapped, but intelligent and since birth confined to the Russian Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. Every day is the same and boring. Ivan has no family and no friends. Death is ever present. Kindness is almost non-existent with one exceptio Wow! Wow! Wow! I keep rereading the forward in an effort to understand if this is a true story and it appears that it is. I'm totally shaken and in tears as I finish reading the last pages. Here is a story of a 17 year old young man, Ivan, severely handicapped, but intelligent and since birth confined to the Russian Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. Every day is the same and boring. Ivan has no family and no friends. Death is ever present. Kindness is almost non-existent with one exception -- Nurse Natalia. Ivan finds ways of coping by playing games and living largely inside his head, till one day a young girl arrives and they eventually connect. This connection plays out and tugs at your heart. This book will break your heart, make you laugh, keep you wondering, thinking about the unfairness of life, the challenges of the handicapped, growing up in an institution, the Russian medical system and its associated lack of compassion and reasonableness. And if not for Ivan's writing, who would know if he even existed. I highly recommend this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    "Life is unbearable, but it has the benefit of being real." The publisher says The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is "The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," but I'd like to challenge that comparison with my own - "Geek Love meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." The central character of Ivan lives at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, where children suffering from various radiation ailments live out their (often short) lives. He is deformed, mi "Life is unbearable, but it has the benefit of being real." The publisher says The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is "The Fault In Our Stars meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," but I'd like to challenge that comparison with my own - "Geek Love meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." The central character of Ivan lives at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, where children suffering from various radiation ailments live out their (often short) lives. He is deformed, missing limbs, and is far enough altered that when he fakes slipping in and out of a comatose state, the nurses believe it and speak openly in front of him. He is a bit precocious but at times this made me laugh, and the entire novel is told from his perspective from the diaries he decides to write because of certain events. His comatose ability gives him that invisible life, but it's also invisible because he is isolated in this hospital, dependent on the care from the people who show up. He does not often form bonds with the other children, who are often incoherent or have visibly short lifespans, based on the smaller supplies of medicines ordered for them. Ivan, on the other hand, is quite intelligent, an avid reader, and very curious. He simply lacks the physical ability to carry out most of his inquiries. A new patient, Polina, becomes an object of great attention and those events are the major catalyst of the novel. Overall I enjoyed this book. It is YA but not overly moody, although it does overdwell on bodily fluids for my tastes. (I suppose at a hospital this is going to happen but it was overemphasized for Ivan's self exploration in my opinion, I felt like I got it, didn't need it to be mentioned so often, so many dirty mattress jokes.) I also liked the setting of Belarus as there aren't many books set there! The storyline near the end got a bit tangled, because I do not think it really needed more than just Ivan and Polina to be interesting. Thanks to the publisher for giving access to a review copy through NetGalley.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Ivan Isaenko was born in 1987 in Belarus, the year following the Chernobyl disaster. He was horribly deformed, with no legs, only one arm with two fingers and a disfigured face. His mother left him at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children 17 years ago and he has no idea who his parents or family at. He has no friends at the hospital as most of the children are either there for short term stays recuperating from surgery or chemotherapy or are like Ivan, long term inmates, with disabilities Ivan Isaenko was born in 1987 in Belarus, the year following the Chernobyl disaster. He was horribly deformed, with no legs, only one arm with two fingers and a disfigured face. His mother left him at the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children 17 years ago and he has no idea who his parents or family at. He has no friends at the hospital as most of the children are either there for short term stays recuperating from surgery or chemotherapy or are like Ivan, long term inmates, with disabilities that limit their ability to interact with others. Ivan amuses himself playing pranks on some of these patients, not realising how cruel he is as he has never been taught to feel compassion for others. Despite his major disabilities, Ivan is very smart and has spent a great deal of time teaching himself simple skills so he can be as independent as possible. Most of the nurses are heartless bullies but one, Natalya, recognises that despite his disfigurements and awkward speech he has a quick and thirsty brain and supplies him with books to read. She also supplies him with the only human warmth and compassion that has ever been shown to him. That is until, Polina, an orphan girl in the final stages of leukemia arrives at the hospital. For the first time, he knows what it is to have a friend, someone to care for who can open up the world for him. Written from Ivan's diaries, his voice comes across as smart and witty. However, he has been been lonely for so long and the world is a big scary place to him. All he really wants is a family and for someone to recognise him as a person. A wonderful book, both humorous and poignant.

  28. 5 out of 5

    abby

    Wow. I don't tend to use the word in book reviews, because I think it's kind of cliche. But, sometimes, a book is just... wow... and there's no better way to describe it. Ivan has lived his entire seventeen years inside the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. He was born with a number of physical deformities, including missing 3 of his limbs, probably due to radiation exposure after the Chernobyl meltdown. Abandoned by his parents and with little hope for a normal life, Ivan gets Wow. I don't tend to use the word in book reviews, because I think it's kind of cliche. But, sometimes, a book is just... wow... and there's no better way to describe it. Ivan has lived his entire seventeen years inside the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. He was born with a number of physical deformities, including missing 3 of his limbs, probably due to radiation exposure after the Chernobyl meltdown. Abandoned by his parents and with little hope for a normal life, Ivan gets through the day by making everything a game. One of his favorites is to pretend to be in a coma to eavesdrop on the nurses. He dislikes most of these nurses, except Nurse Natalya, who is his biggest ally, his book supplier, and, ultimately, his savior. Much of every day is the same for Ivan, until terminal cancer patient Polina comes to the hospital. Their relationship starts as a friendship, but becomes more. In some ways it's as bleak as the hospital, in other ways it's hopeful and typically teenaged. One thing is for sure: Ivan will never be the same. There are parts of this book that are uncomfortable to read and even a little gross. But, in it's own way, it's also wonderful and moving. This is a unique book and a strong debut from the author. I recommend it. * Thank you to both the publisher and netgalley for granting me access to this title

  29. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    The narrator is a 17 year old orphan; born with severe birth defects, he has spent his entire life in a Belarusian children’s hospital. All the other patients are either very young or cognitively impaired. With busy nurses as his only companions, he has grown into an emotionally isolated adolescent who chooses to respond to the world as an “asshole”. His world, his sense of self, his desire for relationship changes when a recently orphaned girl dying of leukemia arrives at his ward. I could comp The narrator is a 17 year old orphan; born with severe birth defects, he has spent his entire life in a Belarusian children’s hospital. All the other patients are either very young or cognitively impaired. With busy nurses as his only companions, he has grown into an emotionally isolated adolescent who chooses to respond to the world as an “asshole”. His world, his sense of self, his desire for relationship changes when a recently orphaned girl dying of leukemia arrives at his ward. I could complain that the young man seemed far more self-aware than might be expected of a 17 year old, let alone one who has been relatively isolated from the world and peer interactions. I could note that the young girl lacked the depression or anger that would be expected of someone suddenly bereft of family, friends, independence, every element of normal life and facing a terminal diagnosis. I could claim that the ending was a bit sweet for my taste. But, I found the writing so strong, the narrative voice so immediate, the characters so engrossing that I willingly suspended quibbles that normally frustrate me as a reader. I won the audio version of this book as a GR Give Away. The reader was excellent, giving just enough to vivify the text but never overpowering the fictional narrator’s voice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    She said that my self-awareness makes life worth living. I said that my self-awareness makes life lonely. It's incredible that someone without any deformities could write such a vivid character. Ivan is strong, inventive, intelligent, sarcastic and in touch with his emotions - he also never gives up. I almost never felt sad for him, he took the cards he was dealt with in life and played them to the best of his abilities. He does not want our pity, but only to be seen as a full human being, with h She said that my self-awareness makes life worth living. I said that my self-awareness makes life lonely. It's incredible that someone without any deformities could write such a vivid character. Ivan is strong, inventive, intelligent, sarcastic and in touch with his emotions - he also never gives up. I almost never felt sad for him, he took the cards he was dealt with in life and played them to the best of his abilities. He does not want our pity, but only to be seen as a full human being, with human needs. I loved his relationship with Nurse Natalya, and I can only hope and pray that there are many such carers in the world. The person that broke my heart was Polina, this may be because a friend of mine lost her son to leukemia, and this brought back a lot of memories. But also because to lose all hope of a life at such a young age is one of the saddest things ever. Don't expect any happy endings, although you will be amazed at how many times you will find yourself smiling at Ivan's observations. The Story: The book is the diary of a severely crippled Belorussian boy who’s spent his whole life in a hospital for sick children. Born in 1987, his deformities, and those of his fellow inmates, were no doubt caused by the radiation that resulted from the Chernobyl disaster.

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