Seventeen-year-old Ivan Isaenko is a life-long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Born deformed, yet mentally keen with a frighteningly sharp wit, strong intellect, and a voracious appetite for books, Ivan is forced to interact with the world through the vivid prism of his mind. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan. That is until the seventeen-year-old Polina arrives at the hospital. At first, Ivan resents Polina. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. But eventually, he is drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. And now Ivan wants something, whereas before he survived by being utterly detached from things and people: Ivan wants Polina to live.