A Bosnian teen whose family fled Sarajevo for Winnipeg in the late 1990s struggles at home and at school.
Told in journal entries that his therapist suggests he write, 15-year-old Cris relates his history and the experience he and his parents and three sisters have in their new home. This format works exceptionally well for the story, allowing Cris to offer a narrative that is matter-of-fact, bitingly funny, and intensely reflective of his internal state. He deals with the experience of otherness and the constriction of gender norms and writes plenty about his withdrawn but loving Muslim father; caring but almost comically critical Serbian Orthodox mother; and the distinctive personalities of his sisters. But mostly he focuses on his closest friend, Elle, an outspoken white girl who befriends him when they are in grade five. At first Cris accepts her friendship perfunctorily, but it eventually becomes central in his life even as she begins to change and seemingly grow away from him, a story arc linked to her weight loss. With few physical descriptions, whiteness is assumed throughout although a multiracial secondary character is called out for her appearance. A short exposition at the end by one of Cris’ sisters gives a pithy overview of the political and religious history of Sarajevo.
A brief, poignant novel that winds up a bit abruptly, this is a heartfelt exploration of one boy’s experience as a refugee. (Fiction. 13-18)