Refugees from the Bosnian War, Lazar’s family flees the Siege of Sarajevo and arrives in Winnipeg in the early 1990s. Despite various mini dramas unfolding at home, as his parents and older sisters navigate a new language, the bitter cold and a strange city and country, Lazar manages to find a place for himself at school, largely by making friends with Elle, a sassy, outspoken girl who divides her time between living with her hoarder mother (who stuffs their tiny apartment with bargains she finds at Liquidation World) and her hippie father, Jimmy, who lives in British Columbia. But as two geeky loners, Elle and Lazar are happy in their own bubble of friendship, especially after they form a pop duo and dream of making it big on Star Search. Soon Lazar’s desperate escape out of Sarajevo seems far away, even as the trauma of his broken homeland looms large with his family at home.
Then Elle comes back from Vancouver after a summer at Jimmy’s, and things are different. They’re in high school, Elle has lost weight and blossomed into popularity, while Lazar remains small, skinny and forgettable. She seems to have forgotten all about their singing plans and starts spending time with a new kid, Ivan. Lazar is unmoored and filled with new longings — for Elle, for Ivan, for a sense that he belongs somewhere. His mother and older sisters worry about his health, that he’s so thin, that he’s not interested in sports, even though the doctors can’t find anything wrong.
And then, in an impulsive moment, Lazar tells Ivan that he’s seriously ill. And with this one reckless lie he suddenly gets — and loses — everything he thought he wanted.
Brenda Hasiuk has published adult short stories in the Malahat Review, New Quarterly and Prism. She has previously written two YA novels, Where the Rocks Say Your Name (shortlisted for the McNally-Robinson Book of the Year and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction) and Your Constant Star (praised by Kirkus for its “authentic teen characters, closely observed settings and moving plot”).
Brenda lives in Winnipeg, where she is on the board of Rossbrook House, an inner-city drop-in center for at-risk youth, and heads up Project Reunite, a grassroots group working to support, settle and reunite Syrian refugee families.
Praise for Swan Dive:
“[A] narrative that is matter-of-fact, bitingly funny, and intensely reflective . . . . this is a heartfelt exploration of one boy’s experience as a refugee.” — Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Your Constant Star (Orca, 2014):
“A superb novel by a rising Canadian literary star ... ” — Kirkus
“Hasiuk skillfully creates complex and believable characters, who are by turns cruel and compassionate, alienating and sympathetic. She understands the blind groping of adolescence, along with its mixing of affection and contempt toward loved ones and occasionally crippling, occasionally empowering uncertainties, and examines this fumbling (and its potential for disaster) in an insightful but unsentimental light. .... will appeal to teens looking for other souls asking questions without answers.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Praise for Where the Rocks Say Your Name (Thistledown, 2004):
“... both the attention to character and the dreamy quality of the narrative make this atypical coming-of-age tale a good choice for enthusiastic high school readers who will appreciate this unshrinking portrayal of the transitions of early adulthood.” — Canadian Materials
“A taut psychological drama that readers will find impossible to put down.” — Books in Canada