September 28, 2013
Review: The Boy on the Bridge
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
Provided by NetGalley and Scholastic Press in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?
As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?
The Good: Laura was an...interesting character, to put it mildly. She intrigued me with her interest in Russia, which was very unique. Its setting is unique, too. Cold War era Russia, for goodness' sake! I can't think of too many YA novels set there. The POV worked well (third person focused on Laura), so I constantly questioned Alyosha's motives. If the POV had flip-flopped between the two, I don't think I would've found this book to be as good. Without spoiling too much, I found the ending to be oddly satisfying. I'm sure some readers will hate it, but I enjoyed its ambiguity. Roma and Karen were my favorite supporting characters. I liked Laura's hastily-written essays and the poetry.
The Bad: The summary was just a wee bit misleading. Alexei rarely goes by Alexei - he goes by Alyosha, for some reason. I'm not sure how I felt about the romance. It was a bit cliche at moments, and it bothered me how Laura kept calling it "love." Also, Olga bothered the heck out of me (as I'm sure she was supposed to). But still.
The Ugly: Mentions of sex and drugs. A fair amount of drinking, although it's technically not illegal for some of the characters. There's a scene revolving around the use of an Ouija board.
The Verdict: Overall, a good read. The Russian culture was an excellent background. If you can get past or aren't bothered by the cliche almost insta-love, then you'd probably like The Boy on the Bridge.