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The Boy on the Bridge

Review

The Boy on the Bridge

A study abroad program in the Soviet Union tests more than just Laura's language skills in THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE.

Laura's only been in Leningrad for a few weeks, and she's already sure she's ready to go home. The Russia she's encountered during her semester-long study abroad program doesn't match up at all with the grotesque, romantic, over-the-top Russia she fell in love with through books. Instead, she's encountered a cold, gray place, full of distrust, resentment and brutal Soviet-era architecture and attitudes.

"Natalie Standiford's THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE is based in part on the author's own experience studying abroad in the Soviet Union under Communism...many of the emotional issues that Standiford conveys are timeless."

But that all seems to change in a moment when, after having been confronted by an aggressive Gypsy women on her way back to her dormitory, Laura is rescued by a handsome young man, Alyosha. She's instantly attracted to them, but their romance must unfold in secret since it is forbidden not only by Laura's academic program but also by the Soviet authorities in general. Alyosha offers Laura exactly the kind of romantic experience she'd been seeking, and he shows her an unexpected side of Russian life that charms her as well.

But as Laura's time in Leningrad draws to a close, and as her relationship with Alyosha becomes more and more serious, doubts start to creep in. Is this relationship important enough to jeopardize her academic standing and her study abroad experience, both of which are suffering due to the amount of time she's spending with Alyosha? Does Alyosha's interest in her go beyond passion and veer into obsession? Is he using her to reach some other goal? Who can she trust if she can't even trust her own heart?

Natalie Standiford's THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE is based in part on the author's own experience studying abroad in the Soviet Union under Communism. The exact time frame of the novel is up to readers to infer --- which is a little tricky since most teenage readers will be quite unfamiliar with the environment of scarcity and surveillance that Standiford portrays here. Perhaps, however, readers will be prompted to learn more about this time period in recent history.

And more importantly, many of the emotional issues that Standiford conveys are timeless. The issue of trust in relationships is obviously pushed to its extremes here but is one that enters into every new relationship, no matter whether its forged in extreme circumstances or not. The challenge of reconciling imagined or expected outcomes with often dreary realities --- both in love and in life --- is another theme that teens can relate with, regardless of their understanding of historical particulars. And, of course, there's Laura's growing independence, both emotional and intellectual, which will appeal to readers and perhaps inspire some of them to seek out their own adventures, whether abroad or closer to home.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 6, 2013

The Boy on the Bridge
by Natalie Standiford

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2013
  • Genres: Romance
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545334810
  • ISBN-13: 9780545334815