Swan Dive

Swan Dive

Written by: Hasiuk, Brenda
ages 14 and up / grades 8 and up

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A teenage refugee adapts to a new country, a new language, new school and even finds a wonderful best friend, until the pressures of past and present collide and lead to a lie that changes everything.

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.

Key Text Features
author’s note
historical context

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6

Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

A teenage refugee adapts to a new country, a new language, new school and even finds a wonderful best friend, until the pressures of past and present collide and lead to a lie that changes everything.

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.

Key Text Features
author’s note
historical context

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6

Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — May 1, 2019
Specifications 192 pages | 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Supporting Resources
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Excerpt
Written By

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.

Written By

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.

Audience ages 14 and up / grades 8 and up
Reading Levels Lexile 1160L
Key Text Features author's note; historical context
Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6

“[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

“This book is one that will keep readers anticipating throughout, whilst providing some humour, and leaving them with big ideas to ponder upon conclusion.” —CM Reviews