Pub. Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Description from Amazon.com:
To be fair, this is not a bad book. The plot moves along nicely, while the uncertainty of Alyosha's motives sustains enough mystery to help keep the pages turning. Though not dense with historical detail, young readers will learn a thing or two about life in totalitarian Russia under the Communist regime of the Soviet Union. Apart from mentions of things like the popular diet drink, Tab, and music like Neil Young, the American kids don't seem all that different from modern day characters.
The real weaknesses of the book are these: Laura falls nearly instantly in love with Alyosha, as does he with her; there is never any real tension -- I am never honestly afraid for Laura (it seems the worst that could happen is that she will be sent home) or Alyosha (who faces the larger danger); the narrative description is not adept enough to successfully convey the beauty and allure of the Russian setting or of its historical landmarks. I was intrigued to find out that much of the novel is informed by the author's real-life experiences during a semester abroad. Upon visiting the author's website and seeing pictures of such places as Dom Knigi (House of Books), Nevsky Prospekt, and The Summer Garden, I was struck by what seemed a huge lost opportunity. She never described those places.
Overall, while The Boy on the Bridge is a fast, effortless read, it will not be particularly memorable or moving. For all the professed love that takes place on the page, little emotion is felt by the reader. I feel like we never knew who Laura was. And what little we know of Alyosha makes us pity more than admire him. What could have been a poetic, aching tale just falls flat.
Verdict: 3 stars of 5. Lacking in depth of character. Emotionally deficient. Descriptively wanting. While you'll understand the harsh Russian conditions and the desperate hope and hunger for freedom that many citizens carried, you won't feel more than a vague sadness. And that's a shame.
Not recommended for purchase. If you are inclined to read it, borrow it from the library.