Sep 5, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Bridge to Terabithia is the story of Jess, a ten-year-old boy who feels that he doesn’t quite fit in, both at home and at school. This is why he spends the whole summer waking up at dawn to practice running before his mother and his sisters are up. He thinks that if he manages to become the fastest runner in fifth grade, he will cease to be “that weird kid who draws” and will find his place at last. However, on the first day of school he has a surprise – Leslie, the new girl in school and his new neighbour, manages to outrun every single one of the boys. At first Jess resents her for this, but soon the two become close friends, and create a magic world just for themselves – Terabithia, a place in which they are King and Queen.

I imagine that most readers are surprised by how this story unfolds, but unfortunately I knew exactly where it was going from the start. A few months back, when the movie was released, I read an article about it, and the writer felt the need to give away the ending in the very first paragraph (with no spoilers warning, of course). So I wasn’t surprised, but fortunately that didn’t ruin the story for me, and it didn’t mean there weren’t other little surprises along the way. I was surprised, for example, by the story’s voice, which reminded me a little of Southern literature. I liked how Jess’s thoughts were conveyed in a believable manner, without the tone of a ten-year-old ever being exaggerated. It made the book seem very earnest, and that was one of my favourite things about it.

Another thing I already knew (unlike those who were unfortunately misled by the fact that the movie was marketed as being another Narnia) was that this is not a fantasy story. The story makes it clear all along that the Kingdom of Terabithia only exists in Jess and Leslie’s imaginations, and the time they spend visiting it is actually time spent playing together in the woods. That, however, doesn’t make it any less special, or any less magical.

What this story is about is the power of friendship, the power that a single person, crossing paths with you at the right time, can have to change your life. I think that’s something most of us have experienced at one point or another: meeting someone who in one way or another shows us a whole new world, and helps us find out who we really are.

Another thing I loved is how Leslie introduces Jess to the pleasure of reading. There are references to Narnia, and also to Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain: He was reading one of Leslie’s books, and the adventures of an assistant pig keeper were far more important to him than Brenda’s sauce. I’m a fan of Taran’s adventures myself, so this sentence put a big smile on my face.

The ending, of course, left me teary-eyed. I liked how the very last chapter was hopeful, and how Jess grew closer to his little sister May Belle.

I didn’t watch the movie adaptation when it was showing in theatres because I wanted to read the book first. Now that I have, it is no longer showing, and the DVD is not available yet. It’s going to be released next month, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to post my thoughts on it with the book still fresh in my mind.

Other Blog Reviews:
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Musings of a Bookish Kitten
Quixotical
Nothing of Importance
She Reads Books
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
A Fondness for Reading
Desert Rose Booklogue

18 comments:

  1. I love your review Nymeth :) I just finished this one myself. I had read this as a child and had completely forgotten the story...I just remembered that it was a favorite when I was younger. It was great to reread it and remind myself why I loved it so much. It was such an emotional book, huh? Those last few chapters are tear jerkers! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the movie too. I didn't see it in the theaters for the same reason as you...wanted to read it first. It's out here on DVD, so I'll be picking it up soon.

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  2. I'm with Chris on this one.. loved the book..but I was surprised! lol.. I hope to buy the movie one day.. when I feel like crying again lol

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  3. What a great review. I really have to read this again. I barely remember it.

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  4. Isn't it wonderful? And the movie is just as good. My hubby has never read the book(had never even heard of it) but after watching the movie he described exactly the sense of the book.

    I keep telling everybody because I don't think it's widely known but the movie is screenplayed and produced by the guy who the character Jess was written about. There is a small blurb from him in a longer Special Feature on the DVD. I love the story so much more knowing about the real story behind it.

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  5. I really enjoyed the movie (I knew by the way the title sequence was done that I was going to love it!) and am looking forward to reading the book and seeing the differences. Most people seem to say the film was a good adaptation which is good. The ending had me in tears at the cinema and I just know the book will too...

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  6. I love this book, and I think they did the movie really well, though I've heard other people complain about it. The other day, I was watching a TV show (Weeds) and there's this character who is someone's really unstable ex-girlfriend, and I kept thinking, "I know that actor. Who is she?" And she was the music teacher in the movie. Completely different role!

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  7. Great review, it is now posted in the Book to Movie challenge listing. I had thought the storyline was like Narnia until I saw the movie so I was dissapointed in that sense. However the movie's special effects were good and the storyline was good too. I think you'll like the movie.

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  8. What a nice review! I loved the book and all the detail and depth of emotion. I liked the movie, too, but watched it a little too soon after finishing the book, so I was a little critical of the changes. They did a beautiful job with it, however, and the changes worked very well. You'll enjoy it, I'm sure.

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  9. Yet another beautiful review, Nymeth! I read this for the first time just a few months ago. It struck me on so many levels. I was somewhat reluctant to read it, as Annie accidentally "spoiled" the end for me. But I'm so glad I didn't let that stop me.

    Jess reminds me so much of my little boy, Gray. And somehow this book left me with hope that someday his "Leslie" will come along, and show him that he's just perfect the way he is.

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  10. I will certainly get around to reading this one someday, because I absolutely treasure the film. Its wonderful, and I'm sure the novel on which it was based is even better. I had known about the stories end before seeing the film just because the back of whatever novel I picked up to look at prior to seeing the film sort of gave it away as well. Like your experience with the book, it certainly didn't spoil the experience for me.

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  11. Great Review!! I actually just checked this out from the library a couple of days ago, hoping to read it for the Newberry Challenge.

    I went to see the movie when it was released (took the kids). I had NO idea what was going to happen, so the surprise part had me in utter tears!! My kids were all like, "Are you ok??" I don't think it will detract from the book though. I'm still looking forward to reading it! (and I usually always prefer to read the books first.)

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  12. I haven't seen the movie yet, knowing I wanted to read the book. I'll be reading it sometime in the next few months.

    Fortunately, I haven't come across any spoilers and so the book will be a surprise to me.

    Great review, Nymeth!

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  13. I haven't read this one, but, again, it's near the top of the wishlist. That's the story of my life it seems!

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  14. Thank you Chris :) It really was very emotional. I wonder how the movie handles getting all those feelings across, because a lot of the book's impact comes from the fact that we have access to Jess's thoughts. But considering everyone's reviews, I'm sure it does it well.

    Deslily: Yeah, the book was such a tear-jerker..I'm sure the movie is one too.

    Nicola: Thank you! You really should revisit it. I think it's one of those stories out of which you'll get something new every time.

    Petunia: I did know that, and I think it was over at your blog that I read about it. I saw that the author dedicated the book to her son David and to his friend Lisa. It really makes everything even more poignant.

    Rhinoa: Yeeah, it seems that everyone agrees that it's a very good adaptation. I really can't wait to see it.

    Dewey: I really like Zoey Deschannel. I've seen her in quite a few movies and she's always fantastic. The fact that she plays Ms Edmunds is one of the reasons why I want to see the movie so much!

    Callista: You're not alone, a lot of people have said that they expected that too. It's too bad that they choose to market movies in a deliberately misleading way... when people don't get what they expect, they are less willing to enjoy the story for what it is. It seems that this movie managed to conquer its audiences despite that, though.

    Robin: You're right, watching the movie right after finishing the book would probably be a bad idea, because one tends to be more critical. I think that in that sense it's good that I have to wait.

    Debi: I'm sure his Leslie will come along some day. I really liked Jess, and Gray sounds like a wonderful boy too.

    Carl: That's too bad, they really shouldn't include spoilers on the back cover! Well, in this case it doesn't really matter all that much, but I'm sure some people will still be upset.

    Stephanie: Yeah, it really won't detract from the book. I really look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

    Literary Feline: I'm sure that being surprised will make the events in the book have an even greater impact. I can't wait to see what you think of it.

    Andi: It's the story of mine as well, concerning many, many books!

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  15. I think that "earnest" is a great way to describe the narrative. I agree that the power of friendship was a beautiful part of this book--its just those damn marketers. :)

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  16. I understand the way you felt, Trish. I'd have felt the same if I'd picked up the book expecting one thing and got something completely different!

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  17. What a lovely review, Nymeth! The screen version is showing on cable at the moment, I am so tempted to watch it!

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  18. I hope you've seen it on DVD now; we bought it in July. I thought it was a good adaptation. I agree that the marketing was awful!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.