Paperback, 231 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Description via Goodreads:
Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother leave Poland and head for the UK to find her father. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school Kasienka finds it impossible to make new friends. While the search continues, Kasienka is kept afloat by William, a boy she meets at the local pool who understands what it means to lose someone and who swims with Kasienka towards her new life.
My thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
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.