Sunday, September 1, 2013
The Boy on the Bridge
90. Natalie Standiford, The Boy on the Bridge
I have to admit--when I first saw this book, I thought it was an attempt to capitalize on the success of the delightful Anna and the French Kiss--you know, girl meets exotic boy in strange country and falls in love with him and the country. I loved Anna, and figured the formula was strong enough that even if the book was predictable and formulaic, it would still be enjoyable.
Sometimes it's nice to be mistaken.
This book was definitely not what I expected--but I think that's a good thing. The story follows Laura, a college sophomore living and studying in Russia for six months in 1982, during the height of the Cold War. Because the Russian government was suspicious of Americans, she and her fellow students are closely watched: they are expected to keep curfew in their dorms and only associate with "approved" Russians.
An unexpected encounter on a bridge introduces Laura to Alyosha, and the next part of the story is inevitable: as they spend time together, they begin to fall in love. And Alyosha is a perfect love interest: good-looking, smart, soulful, humorous, and a lover of poetry. But at this point, the story began to veer into unexpected territory. Laura begins to wonder if Alyosha is using her to get a green card to the United States, and both she and Alyosha discover that the reach of the KGB is farther and more insidious than they had expected.
The political complications of the novel make something that could have been light and fluffy (ala Anna and the French Kiss) into something more: something lyrical and bitter-sweet. The writing here was beautiful and I loved the sense that I had, in fact, been transported to another country.
I did not love the ending, but I don't want to spoil the book by saying anything more than that.
I would also add that this book seems much more New Adult than Young Adult to me--the protagonists are in their late teens/early twenties and some of the issues of the book are issues not likely to occur with high school students studying abroad.