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jenryland

jenryland

The Boy on the Bridge

The Boy on the Bridge - Natalie Standiford Natalie Standiford's How to Say Goodbye in Robot and Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters are huge favorites of mine, so I was super-excited to read this. Boy on the Bridge immersed me in an intriguing and completely foreign world: 1982 Leningrad. College student Laura Reid is participating in an exchange program, spending a semester working on her Russian and soaking up the culture.What I loved most about this book was that the setting was such a unique one for YA. I was fascinated to learn more about pre-Glasnost Russia -- food shortages, strict rules banning fraternization between Soviets and foreigners, and a high level of paranoia. I also loved the way the book depicted the foreign exchange experience in general -- the constraints that come with living with other American students while trying to experience a foreign country.When Laura meets Aloysha on a bridge, she escapes her protective bubble and gets a glimpse of real Russian life -- every exchange student dreams of. But in this case, there's a catch: Laura is repeatedly warned by her chaperones and fellow students that many Russians are so desperate to escape their country that they will feign romantic attachment to Americans as a means of doing so. Of course, Laura falls in love. She's convinced that Aloysha loves her too.The romantic aspect of the book was a bit more confusing for me, and I'll be curious to see how other readers come out. The book is told in third person from Laura's point of view, with no insight into Aloysha's feelings or thoughts, so there is no way for the reader to know if he loves Laura or if she's just a means to an end to him. If you are a reader who needs closure, you may take issue with what, to me, seemed like a frustratingly unresolved ending. Is this a bittersweet coming of age story about a girl who is cruelly duped? A romantic story about love against the odds? An existential statement about the fact that we can never truly know what's in someone else's head? I don't mind books with ambiguous endings, but in this case I feel a little like all the evidence was dumped in my lap for me to sort out. I think the book would have packed more of an emotional punch for me if there had been more resolution. To me, all the evidence pointed toward Aloysha being a manipulator. The extreme instalove, his sudden proposal, his creepy stalking of Laura to Moscow -- these things made him seem way too intense, and she was way too naive. Toward the end of the book, one of Aloysha's friends tells Laura that she's just one of a string of American girls he has romanced, which also pretty damning. Or was he just desperate? I really didn't know what to think and wished that the book had offered more insight.