cover image Spring in Siberia

Spring in Siberia

Artem Mozgovoy. Red Hen, $18.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63628-070-7

Mozgovoy’s superb debut follows a boy’s coming-of-age as the U.S.S.R. crumbles. Alexey feels like an alien living in Taiga, Siberia. Born in 1985, he grows up in poverty and witnesses the Union’s decline, noticing at age six how factories are closing and people no longer know what to do with themselves. He develops a fondness for reading poetry and dreams of a better life anywhere else, so it’s a special treat when he is sent at 12 to a Pioneer camp for three weeks. There, he feels empowered by singing songs and staging a play with his fellow creative comrades, making his return to real life all the more crushing. After Alexey and his mother move to a provincial city so he can attend the Humanities Gymnasium, he meets Anton, a classmate who soon confesses his love for Alexey. The boys form a close friendship, and keep a low profile among their homophobic peers. During a weeklong bus trip across Europe, Anton plots the boys’ possible escape from their country. Mozgovoy does a great job capturing Alexey’s education, and his realization of what his life could be, which, by the end, makes his self-assertion all the more gratifying. This will move readers. (Apr.)