July 5, 2014

Book review: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

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Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

For the "Award Winner" square in my Reading Outside the Box challenge, I chose Newberry Medal award winner Bridge to Terabithia. I remember that a movie adaptation of this book came out a few years ago, which I never got to see, and I thought I'd read the book first, and if I liked it, I'd rent the movie.

Critically, I can see why Bridge to Terabithia won an award. It's a good book, and although it's aimed at a Middle Grade audience, it doesn't shy away from serious topics like bullying, friendships, and even death. The author does a great job in creating the characters of Jess and Leslie. Their friendship is genuine and believable, making the tragedy mentioned in the book description even more shocking (although I wish they hadn't mentioned it).

Although I haven't watched the movie adaptation yet, I remember that the trailer made it seem like most of the story takes place in the imaginary kingdom of Terabithia. It doesn't. The kids spend hardly any time there, which was my biggest disappointment. I expected this book to be like The Chronicles of Narnia, but it reminded me more of Tom Sawyer. On the whole, Terabithia is a symbol of their friendship more so than a setting for the book.

Overall, a good book that I recommend reading, but don't go into it expecting a fantasy story with magical creatures as the movie trailer suggests. And yes, I do plan to rent the movie now.

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