Saturday, August 3, 2013

Book Review: The Boy On The Bridge

The Boy on the BridgeAuthor: Natalie Standiford
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic

A new breathtaking novel from Natalie Standiford about love and trust during the Cold War.

Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?

She laughed at the image of a man so transformed by love that he became as delicate and wispy as a cloud.

Laura knew that over twenty million Soviet people died during World War II, and as many as two million died – from disease, hunger, or bombs – during the German siege of Leningrad. “I can feel it. The sadness, I mean. All over the city.”

“It was as if a veil fell from my eyes. Suddenly I saw everything differently. The hospitals are dirty, the stores are empty, the people are poor while the Party takes everything. The hypocrisy, the secrecy, the lies, the bullshit…I saw it all very clearly. I couldn’t pretend to be a part of the system anymore. But that’s what’s required of you here – you don’t have to believe the lies, but you must pretend you do. That’s all that matters: the pretending. That’s what keeps the whole system going.”

For the rest of the evening they spoke no more Russian, or English, but a language that they both understood completely.

She cleared her throat and began to read. The words tumbled out of her mouth like cinnamon candies.

I got to go to a place that I have never been before in any story I have read: 1982 Leningrad. Laura Reid is an American student who is studying abroad and is utterly fascinated with Russia’s horrid past. Laura meets a Russian boy who goes by the name of Alyosha and falls head over heels for him. Laura refuses to heed the warning of her American peers and chaperones when they explain that many Russian boys and girls try to woo the Americans with hopes of marrying and coming to America to escape Russia’s tight and strict government. Laura goes on an exciting journey all over the country. Alyosha takes her to see many interesting tourist sites, and readers like you and me get a real inside look at this important piece and time in history.

I really enjoyed Alyosha and Laura’s relationship, but I did have mixed feelings about Alyosha. I thought they were amazing together and their romance was sweet and simple. However, I personally believe that Alyosha had an ulterior motive. I do not want to give away any of the story, but I will tell you that Alyosha is very hard to read at times. Laura became so fixated on him and he seemed to feel the same way about her as well. There evenings and picnics together were very sweet and charming. He was different from everything she knew, and he seemed to give her a different view and take on the world that she was living in.

Natalie Standiford really knows how to draw readers into the setting of a book. I was so impressed with her writing! Then I found out that when she was in college she studied abroad in Leningrad as well. This piece of information just made the book all the more real to me. She was reporting on things that she had possibly experienced for herself. Even small details like the gypsies that try to con Americans out of their money was something that I am sure she might have witnessed. I loved following Laura over the streets of Leningrad and then on to Moscow. It was all so invigorating! More authors need to write about Russia!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Scholastic in exchange for my honest review***


  1. I also had mixed feelings about Alyosha. I wasn't sure what his motives where and I think that is what makes the book stick in my mind.

  2. You could try and read Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah if you're interested in Russia and Russian history, it's (partly) about the siege of Leningrad during WWII (and just a really good book in general). My review of it is here: