~ Warning! Spoilers! Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia by: Katherine Paterson ~
Last year, I read my first Katherine Paterson book, The Great Gilly Hopkins, and it was a great short read. I found a used copy of Bridge to Terabithia for quite cheap, so I decided to buy it. I know of the movie adaption and had heard that the main female character dies. Here is my disclaimer: since I knew the ending, it probably affected the way I read the book.
Summary [from the back of the book]
Join Jess and Leslie as they form an unlikely friendship and create the imaginary land of Terabithia. There, they rule as king and queen, until a terrible tragedy occurs that helps Jess understand just how much he has learned from Leslie.
I don’t think this book is a hold your attention/page turner, not that it is suppose to be. I wasn’t racing to the end. Instead, I slowly read a little each day. It’s a type of book you absorb bit by bit. Even though I knew Leslie died, I wasn’t prepared for how the book was going to present it. At first, I thought the announcement of her death was going to be more dramatic, but then I realized that the focus wasn’t that she had died but how everyone around her reacted to it especially Jess. We see him doubtful, regretful, depressed, angry, quiet, etc. The range of emotions this boy goes through is so powerful and extremely touching. I was truly moved by the final message of the book.
The author has a way with giving each character a voice and similar to The Great Gilly Hopkins, readers can really hear the character’s accent which is quite awesome.
At first, I wasn’t so keen on reading this book. I couldn’t attach to or relate to any of the characters after the first few pages to care about continuing. Luckily, the book is short, so I kept reading. I’m glad I did. One thing I noticed was all the female characters were somewhat mean including Leslie. The whole getting revenge on Janice and making fun of her teacher for being fat was not okay. She makes it up to Janice by comforting her one day, so I guess they (the female characters of this book) do somehow redeem themselves in some way.
Here are some things I noticed. 1) I guess this is another way of life in a different community. When I discovered the unspoken rule of not airing one’s own family’s dirty laundry, I was shocked to see what kind of reaction it caused. I thought it was terribly sad that child abuse, extreme child abuse, was presented as the norm and something that could be ignored. 2) I am currently watching a Korean drama about a poor family who still spends beyond their means. I don’t understand how someone (or a family) who knows that they don’t have any money but can continue to spend money they don’t have. Were new church clothes necessary after your father got laid off? 3) I am not religious and growing up, I had classmates tell me I was going to hell because I didn’t believe in God. Therefore, when I read things like this in books, it strikes a very hard chord in me. I apologize for bringing up my unnecessary personal feelings into this, but the book foreshadows Leslie’s death by asking what will happen to her when she dies since she doesn’t believe in the Bible. In the end, Jess’s father clarifies the situation by saying God won’t send children to hell. 4) I thought Miss Edmunds was cool at first, but then I found her creepy for singling out Jess and then taking him and only him all the way to Washington. That does not sound normal at all. On the cute side of things, when Miss Edmunds was talking about her year abroad in Japan, I felt like it was the author talking about her own experience living in Asia.
In conclusion, the book is a great children’s book which received the Newbery Medal and was made into a movie. It is touching, moving, and contains important life lessons. There were scenes I did not enjoy and parts were I forced myself to continue, but I think this is just a personal problem and not the book’s problem. Overall, it still deserves a 4/5.
As for the movie, I don’t plan on watching it. If anyone has seen the movie and thinks I should give it a try, please tell me why. I’m all ears.