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The Weight of Water

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Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat.

The Weight of Water is a startlingly original piece of fiction. A brilliant coming-of-age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental, and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published January 5, 2012

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About the author

Sarah Crossan

21 books1,786 followers
Sarah Crossan is Irish. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature before training as an English and Drama teacher at Cambridge University and worked to promote creative writing in schools before leaving teaching to write full time.

She completed her Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in 2003 and in 2010 received an Edward Albee Fellowship for writing.

She currently lives in NYC.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,263 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
February 16, 2015

I need to finally brush off my prejudice against books that are written in verse. Every single time I raise a sceptical eyebrow in their direction - completely unable to believe that this is anything more than just lazy storytelling - and every single time I find myself impressed. The Weight of Water was no exception. This is a delightful, if somewhat heartbreaking, little story that took me just over an hour to read.

I've noticed some people shelving this as "middle grade" and I understand why because the protagonist is young and it is an easy enough read for a younger audience to enjoy also. However, I feel the need to say something about this because I am usually put off by the "middle grade" label and sometimes assume it will lack depth or just be written in a style that is too young for me. Basically, I don't feel that is the case with The Weight of Water. I find myself comparing it to books like Wonder - one which I did feel was a touch too young for me - and I think an older audience will appreciate the brutal honesty of this story. Nothing is sugar-coated, the story doesn't evolve through an ideal cycle of peace-problem-happyending. The issues are handled in a much more mature and realistic way.

The story is about Kasienka and her mother, two Polish migrants that have arrived in England searching for the father that left them. Kasienka's mother is obsessed with the idea that she can bring her husband back home to Poland if she can only talk things through with him. Kasienka, being the one with better English language skills, is made to walk down the streets of Coventry, knocking on doors and asking whether people have seen her father. With every failed attempt to find her father, her mother's heart breaks a little bit more. But that is not the only problem Kasienka faces. She must deal with the other students at her school every day; students who hate her for being different, for wearing the wrong thing, for saying the wrong thing, or just because they can.

Swimming is just about the only thing Kasienka can do right; in the water, she is too much of a winner to be a loser. It's the one place she is untouchable. And while the idea of young teens turning to their passion to escape from reality has been explored to death, Kasienka's story still feels fresh. I think it is all the other things that make this story stand out from the crowd - Kasienka's relationship with her mother, the difficult choices she has to make at such a young age, and the exploration of the alienation that many immigrants face. For such a short book, I was blown away by how powerful and moving it was.

I only hope the author writes more novels in verse because I shall certainly be picking them up.
Profile Image for Reading Corner.
88 reviews103 followers
March 14, 2016
The Weight Of Water is a novel written in a beautiful,poetic style which creates a fantastic story and atmosphere.Kasienka and her mother move to England, in search of Tata,Kasienka's dad who her mother is determined to find despite Kasienka's reluctance. Kasienka encounters numerous problems throughout the book, in school and at home.

The novel deals with numerous themes, relevant to young people and adults.The honesty in Sarah Crossan's writing is a brilliant aspect of this book, as she doesn't skim over the harder parts of life we struggle with at home and at school.The target audience of this book may seem young but this novel is an excellent read for people of all ages.

The story is touching and sad at times but definitely enjoyable.I finished this novel in an hour and it left me with a nice,happy feeling.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 21 books1,786 followers
October 16, 2011
It's my novel, so I'm giving it five stars in the hope that I start a trend! Do hope you enjoy reading it. Any thoughts, send me a message; I'd love to hear from you.
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
May 12, 2020
“When I am in the water
My body moves like a wave:
There is a violence to it
And a beauty.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
“And it
Never felt so good.”


High Points.
Kasienka. William. The writing. Friendship. Saying goodbye. Reunions. Butterfly stroke. Kisses like Haribo. Love is a large W. Mama. Resilience. Culture. Blueberry ice cream. Girly sleepovers. Tummy tumbles.

Low Points.
I would have loved to have had a few more poems set when Kasienka and her mum were in Poland. I think it would have added a great contrast between the different cultures.
Also, from what was in the book… it looked really interesting.
Also, blueberry ice cream sounds delicious.

Oh Kasienka.
You were so sad and you were so lonely and you were so insecure and you were OK with letting people
Until you realised how it’s OK to be different and how there’ll always be moments where you feel a bit odd or alone but that there is always people who are just as different as you.
And they’re the kids you want to hang with because they’re the best.
If we had gone to school together I bet we’d be the best of friends and we’d stay up all night, swapping stories and drinking pop and being giddy.

I love it when my heroines stand up for themselves and don’t need any body to tell them how to do it.
And basically realise that they were brilliant inside and out all along.

Love Interest.
And if Kasienka’s ability to conquer her fears wasn’t good enough for you, Ms Crossan gives us an incredibly adorable love interest too!

"William is in Year Nine
He could save me from the pack
But he does not want to:
He knows
I can save

Also, kissing him is like eating Haribo.
Now, I’m not sure if that’s because he tastes like Haribo or because he gives you the feeling you get when you eat an entire bag of the Sour ones and then chug a bottle of Coke.
You know… ridiculously giddy and a fizzy tongue?
Just me?
Only low point with our lovely William is that he’s a smoker.
I know, I know.
Anyway, I loved it when he offered Kasienka one and she says no.
And then they just play on the swings.

Theme Tune.
What the Water Gave Me by Florence + The Machine.

How long have I been hankering to use a song from Ceremonials? Do you remember my demand polite suggestion that all authors must should listen to it on repeat and then write a book based on it solely to keep me happy?
Well Ms Crossan obviously listened to me and therefore she deserves the prize of a Flo-induced Theme Tune. A prize so coveted by authors across the land….
OK, maybe not coveted but it should be.

Sadness Scale.
I always find it difficult to come up with a number for books such as this one because obviously the issues and situations that are dealt with in this book are extremely harrowing and, sadly, common in present day Britain.
But I wouldn’t say that this is a particularly sad book. Yes there are a lot of moving poems, especially when Kasienka first moves to England and constantly feels “unwanted and misused”, but I also saw this book as more about finding out who you are and becoming comfortable with it.
Regardless of where Kasienka is from, I feel that a lot of readers of all ages would relate to the feelings of loneliness and insecurity that Ms Crossan expertly portrays with the character.
And that last poem? Beautiful and so powerful.
I just wanted to pull her into the biggest cuddle ever.
Or… well, wait until she’d changed out of her cozzie because I don’t want to get all chloriney but then we’d cuddle. Definitely.

Recommended For.
People who have ever felt at a loss with themselves. People who like to adopt happiness as their revenge. People who thought their first kiss way awkward *cringe*. People who always leave the best stories at a sleepover for when the lights are out.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Marta (Bibliofilem być).
442 reviews302 followers
January 2, 2022
Ta książka przypomniała mi, jak ciężko było być nastolatką i jak ważne jest, by nastolatki mogły liczyć na swoich rodziców.
910 reviews256 followers
June 24, 2019
I'm not usually a fan of novels written in poetic form, but this was an exception. Much like the water which is a recurring motive, this is far deeper than it first appears, with a beautifully written protagonist. The sparse words were infinitely more evocative than dense prose would have been. I found that the characters moved fluidly and realistically throughout Kasienka's life, and the result was a beautifully moving piece of literature.
Simply lovely.

Excerpt from book:

We weren't on a ship.
Immigrants don't arrive on
Overcrowded boats any more,
Swarming wet docks like rats.
It isn't 1920 and it isn't Ellis Island -
Nothing as romantic as a view of
Lady Liberty
To welcome us.

Profile Image for Emma.
912 reviews870 followers
September 28, 2019
3.5/5 Stars

I always like a Sarah Crossan's book. This one was well done and I appreciate so much the fact that it was written in verse, the author is truly good with this writing style.
I think the story is one a lot of people could relate to, not only because of the immigrant aspect which is very prominent in the narrative, but also because of the family theme that is always present on the page.
I would categorize this book as a middle grade, but don't let this discourage you from reading it because it definitely can be enjoyed by everyone.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
89 reviews21 followers
June 21, 2017
A short, basic read. The story was alright, quite mediocre and not much happened. It just felt quite basic and underdeveloped. I adored One, also written by Crossan in a freeverse format, but this just felt very two dimensional and boring.
Profile Image for Alice-Elizabeth (Prolific Reader Alice).
1,151 reviews153 followers
October 21, 2019
The story of a young Polish girl called Kasienka, who along with her mother leave their home country and travel to England in search of Kasienka's birth father. Along the way, she starts at a new high school and runs into a group of nasty students in her year group. All she ever wants to be is happy and swim in the local pool, competing for school and country. This, along with Sarah's other novels I've read by her is written in verse. The short, poetic chapters made for raw emotional reflection. Really made me think about what things make me happy in general!
Profile Image for Marieke | Marieke's Books.
545 reviews117 followers
March 4, 2018
Een uitgebreidere recensie is te vinden op mijn blog

Na nog even nagedacht te hebben, ga ik toch voor 3 sterren ipv 4. Niet omdat dit boek slecht was, maar omdat de hoofdpersoon mij niet zo aansprak. Kasienka is echt een lieverd, maar je leert haar niet helemaal kennen naar mijn idee.

Het vorige boek dat ik van Sarah Crossan las, Een, vond ik veel sterker dan dit boek. Daar leerde je de hoofdpersoon echt door en door kennen.
Maar dan nog even een positief punt: wat lezen deze boeken heerlijk snel weg! (ik had hem binnen een dag uit). Ik hou van haar schrijfstijl. Dit boek is weer in poëtische stijl geschreven en dat vind ik zo origineel aan de schrijfstijl van Sarah Crossan. Ze kan met heel weinig woorden heel veel zeggen. En haar verhalen zijn op geen enkel moment saai. Nooit een boek van haar gelezen? Zeker doen, want deze schrijfstijl moet je een keertje hebben meegemaakt. Maar dan zou ik Een lezen, want die vond ik toch echt wel beter.
Profile Image for Myriam.
414 reviews291 followers
May 6, 2020
Ayant lu Inséprarables et Moon Brothers avant Swimming Pool, j'ai été moins séduite par ce roman que par les deux autres de Sarah Crossan.
Celui-ci, plus court, traite de l'immigration, des familles recomposées et du harcèlement scolaire.
Malgré tout, il aura manqué cette petite étincelle pour me faire totalement adhérer à l'héroïne, de laquelle je me suis sentie moins proche que des autres protagonistes des autres romans.
Ma chronique : http://unjour-unlivre.fr/swimming-poo...
Profile Image for Lydia Duncalfe.
30 reviews
November 2, 2017
This book made me cry. I felt so much frustration and heartache for Kasienka right through to the end, and, when there were glimmers of hope, I revelled in them. The story is beautifully written, poem-like in structure with a powerful rhythm that had me marching through, desperate to reach those happier moments. A good book to consider using with upper KS2 children in PSHE in regard to bullying and family separations.
Profile Image for KiMia.
15 reviews
August 18, 2020
کانورو غمگین نگاهم می‌کند.
«انتقام تو باید خوشحالی‌ات باشد کاسینکا،
با اینکه حق با اوست
ولی حالم را بدتر می‌کند.
چون نمی‌دانم
چطور خوشحال باشم.

در جایگاه خودش کتاب خیلی خوبی بود. خوندنش تجربه جالبیه.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,922 reviews1,258 followers
July 21, 2013
Talk about come-from-behind challengers. I was so certain I had my Carnegie nominees sorted, and then I read the The Weight of Water. I almost didn’t read it. It’s getting close to the end of the school year, and in a week’s time I’ll be on a plane back to Canada for the summer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to invest the time in reading this book, particularly because it is written in verse. Poetry and I are … fairweather friends.

Not reading this book would have been a huge mistake, one I’m glad I didn’t make. Sarah Crossan has created an utterly engrossing story about a Polish girl whose mother has uprooted her and brought her to England in pursuit of her father, who has left their family. Kasienka is devoted to her mother but confused by her father's desertion and her new situation in England. She is upset about being placed in a Year 7 class, despite being nearly thirteen years old, just because of her English skills. And moving schools makes it hard enough to find friends and wage the wars of popularity; moving to a new country and learning a new language makes it even harder.

I come from Thunder Bay, a city that is somewhat multicultural but not exactly a bastion of diversity like one would find in Toronto or, indeed, many major towns in England. My experience dealing with the intersections of different cultural backgrounds, and particularly the psychological effect on a child of moving around the world, is limited. Having taught at a school with a significant proportion of students for whom English is a second language, I have a better idea of the challenges that students—and teachers—face on a daily basis. Crossan captures all of these in the voice and verse of a twelve-year-old girl.

The verse works well because it forces you to pay attention to every word. With prose, it is so easy to skim and still get the gist of the plot. This book has a plot, but the story is definitely about the trajectory of Kasienka as a character. She begins as a scared girl and matures, with each challenge teaching her something valuable about who she is becoming. She faces down the Popular Girl, develops shy affection for a boy in Year 9, and even struggles with keeping a secret from her mother that could tear them asunder. Because everything is narrated in her poetry, we only ever get a sense of Kasienka—the other characters are more like shadows of themselves than real people—but that’s enough.

The best "plot point", if you will, concerns Kasienka becoming aware of her father's new life before her mother does. She has to choose whether to keep this a secret from her mother or reveal it, risking both parents’ disapproval. As Kasienka”s relationship with her mother deteriorates, her relationship with her father improves, to the point where his new partner invites her to come live with them. She would have everything she doesn't have in the one-room living space she shares with her mother: a bedroom, a bed of her own, a computer. She could be more like a “normal” English girl her age. But it would mean leaving her mother, and even the thought of that makes Kasienka feel so guilty. You can see her thinking about it though, feel the pain as she considers her options.

The book takes its title from Kasienka’s newly found love of swimming. Several people encourage her involvement, and she persists until she gets to go to a national competition in London. Again, the poetry works well here, communicating through vivid imagery the relief that Kasienka feels as she swims. Her mundane worries slide off her body; she revels in the feel of the water on her skin, the intensity of the competition of which she is a part. For her, the weight of water is something special, something almost holy. Crossan portrays the refuge that children (and adults, often enough) seek in a hobby or singular activity, something they can focus on—something they can control.

I'm having a hard time, now, deciding which nominee I’d like to win the award. I loved Code Name Verity: it was tops, because I was entertained even as I nearly cried. The Weight of Water, which I almost spurned, is a strong challenger. It is something that would work for children around twelve or thirteen, provided they can swallow their prejudice against poetry like I did. And I think it has a very rich message, both for people who are not from England as well as people who have grown up here and lived here their entire lives. It's a potent book, and one I’m very glad I deigned to read.
Profile Image for teach_book.
307 reviews633 followers
December 18, 2020
Uwielbiam formę w jakiej tworzy Crossan. Wiersz i melancholia - idealnie! Książka o poznawaniu siebie, o nietolerancji, o młodzieńczej miłości, o umiejętności walki z problemami, a także o dorastaniu. Piękna!
Profile Image for Stacey (prettybooks).
515 reviews1,547 followers
December 30, 2019
Sarah Crossan’s One is one of my all-time favourite YA novels, but I hadn’t yet picked up her first verse novel, The Weight of Water. It’s about 12-year-old Kasienka who moves from Poland to England with her mother, searching for the father who left them.

Continue reading this review over on Pretty Books.
Profile Image for Sara.
369 reviews322 followers
February 26, 2020
I picked this book up completely on a whim, i'd never heard of it or the author before but it was on display at the library and I was quite taken by the cover.
This book is told in verse and is a story about a Polish immigrant coming to the UK and trying to fit in.
Its a very quick read, i read it in about 20 minutes or so, and I enjoyed it but wasn't bowled over as such.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Jahanzaib Asim.
101 reviews61 followers
July 18, 2017
“And though he is right,
It makes me feel worse
Because I do not know
How to be happy.”

Although I have read only two of Crossan's books. It's safe to say I love her. I read One last year and it actually made me cry and love it so bad, it jumped onto my top #5 spots. Although it has been replaced, but nevermind that. Sarah Crossan knows how to make you feel. She knows how to squeeze your heart and make you use up a whole box of tissues.
Yeah, she's that good. Not many authors are able to do that.

The story revolves around Kasienka and her mother who move into the city where there Dad escaped (escaped doesn't sound appropriate but oh well) It is her tale of drama that comes with moving into a new school, falling for a guy who doesn't treat her bad and her search for her dad.

While the book may not have been as beautiful and amazing as One, it was a quick and a enjoyable read. It left me with mixed feeling because I felt like it missed something I can't seem to explain. Like it lacked something. The verse writing was amazing and yeah, I can' wait to read more books by Sarah Crossan. :')
589 reviews1,031 followers
July 26, 2013
There won't be a review as I don't think I can write a review to show how much I was surprised with this novel. A brief thought:

The Weight of Water is raw, heart breaking and real. There were many deep subjects that young adult readers will enjoy although the main character was a middle grade child. This was written in free verse poem style- which I actually loved.
Profile Image for Bookish.
613 reviews140 followers
June 12, 2019
April is here, and there’s a new Bookish bingo challenge to compete in! I didn’t score a bingo last month, and this time around I’m determined to be more strategic about my picks. One of the boxes I’d like to tick off is “verse novel,” which gave me the excuse I needed to dive into another Sarah Crossan book. The Weight of Water was Crossan’s debut and it follows a young girl named Kasienka as she adjusts to her new life in England with her mother. The two immigrated from Poland to track down Kasienka’s father. Kasienka finds herself alienated at school where she is mocked for being different and equally lonely at home, where her mother’s sole focus is spending their evenings knocking on doors in the hopes of finding her husband. It’s a heartbreaking story, and one where Crossan doesn’t shy away from Kasienka’s hardships. If you’re looking to celebrate National Poetry Month with a verse novel, I highly recommend picking up anything by Crossan. —Kelly (excerpted from Bookish's Staff Reads)
Profile Image for Katarzyna Nowicka.
537 reviews14 followers
January 22, 2021
Zaskoczyła mnie ta książka, zaskoczyła i to bardzo pozytywnie.
Po pierwsze napisana jest jak zbiorek białych wierszy, ale czyta się ją jak prozę. To bardzo oryginalny zabieg.
Po drugie mogłabym przysiąc, że napisana jest przez Polkę, a nie przez irlandzką pisarkę. Zresztą jest to jej debiut i to świetny wg mnie.
Dlaczego? Otóż temat, który porusza może być tak doskonale znany tylko tym, co tego doświadczyli.
Autorka musi mieć niezwykłą intuicję i empatię , bo perfekcyjnie opisuje emocje i uczucia bohaterki, która jest polską emigrantką. A może poprostu jest świetną obserwatorką i słuchaczką.

Tytułowa Kasieńka to 12 letnia dziewczynka. Kiedy ją i jej matkę opuszcza ojciec postanawiają go odszukać. Trop prowadzi do Coventry, miasteczka w UK. I właśnie tam się udają, opuszczając rodzinny Gdańsk.
Dla żadnej z nich nie jest to łatwa sytuacja. Kasieńka trafia do nowej szkoły, czuje się wyobcowana, nieakceptowana, jest jej bardzo trudno odnaleźć się w nowej sytuacji. Trochę radość odnajduje na basenie, tam też poznaje Williama, chłopaka z jej szkoły...

Prawdziwa, wartościowa i warta polecenia. Czyta się ją błyskawicznie i na tyle mnie zaintrygowała, że koniecznie muszę sięgnąć po wersję oryginalną.
Profile Image for Elaine Mullane || At Home in Books.
891 reviews321 followers
July 20, 2020
The Weight of Water is a short but stunning novel, written completely in verse, about picking up the pieces and starting over again.

Kasienka and her mother arrive in England from Poland, in search of Kasienka's "Tata" (father), who abandoned them when she was very young. She is enrolled in a secondary school in Coventry, but is treated as an outsider and an intruder by classmates who constantly poke fun at her. She finds solace in swimming and befriends an adult neighbour, both of which bring her comfort and teach her value of persevering in life with the things that bring you purpose.

This is a compelling and poignant book that is sometimes humorous and always charming. The poems have a gentle lyricism and speak to immigration, identity, prejudice, discrimination, bullying, families and first love. It is a unique and special coming-of-age tale and I am so glad I read it. This is my first experience with Sarah Crossman, but it won't be my last.
Profile Image for Jabiz Raisdana.
335 reviews75 followers
June 10, 2014
Simply Perfect. Do yourself a favor, carve out a few hours and read this in one sitting. It will leave a tiny stone in your gut that you will be unable to free yourself from for days.

Beautifully written. Image rich and perfect for teen-agers dealing with being the odd-person out and fitting in. Loved this book.
Profile Image for Ashley Marilynne Wong.
379 reviews21 followers
May 31, 2016
Everyone…should…read…this…beautiful…and…heartbreaking…book! Trust me, you'll never regret reading it just as I thought I would!
Profile Image for Priya.
1,406 reviews36 followers
April 26, 2021
The verse style really works for this novel that tells the story of a young teenage girl Kasienka, forced to come to London from Poland to look for her father.
Facing what amounts to bullying from her popular classmates, she cannot tell her mother who is heartbroken over her father and solely focused on finding him.
As she tries to navigate her new surroundings, she makes a special friend, learns to look out for herself and even realize her potential.
The conflict she faces as the child between two estranged parents and the problems of being an immigrant who struggles to find acceptance are handled through very skilful verse.
Profile Image for Andrea.
581 reviews52 followers
October 18, 2017
What a little gem!

A very moving story about a young Polish girl who moves to the UK with her mother, in search of the father who abandoned them.

The style wasn't something I'd read before, but I really enjoyed it.

It felt so realistic and Kasienka was such a great, strong character (unlike her parents).

4.5 stars :)
38 reviews10 followers
January 12, 2021
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce livre, qui se lit d'une traite. Les vers libre donnent du rythme à la lecture et on découvre au fur et à mesure l'histoire de Kasienka, à qui l'on s'attache beaucoup. Un très beau récit !
Profile Image for ambrasée.
23 reviews18 followers
March 28, 2021
4,5/5 ! Il manque très peu pour le coup de cœur mais j’aurais aimé en savoir plus sur les relations qu’à Kasienka avec les élèves du lycée et notamment William.
Mais ça reste une excellente lecture à la hauteur des autres romans de Sarah Crossan !
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,263 reviews

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