Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson, Donna Diamond Yet another awful book we were forced to read back in elementary school that I absolutely loathed even then. Aside from an insipid, fucked-up message, it's an all-around poorly written, boring mess.

Let's start with the prose. It's written from the point of view of its protagonist Jess, a 10 year-old boy in a small, hick town. He has no friends, two older sisters he hates, and few aspirations beyond becoming the fastest runner in his year. When used correctly, a first person child narrator can be amusing and immerse the reader in the work, like in "Huckleberry Finn". However, it can also be a lazy crutch to cover up for clunky language and the author's inability to write eloquently in the third person. Guess which one it is here?

Jess's observations are never insightful nor amusing in the way Huck's are; his similes are primitive and lifeless. Furthermore, they're not even realistic enough to actually come from a 10 year-old country boy. Not realistic, not entertaining, and generally stupid. An all-around failure.

Okay, so what about the entertainment value of this book? It's essentially nil. Leslie Burke, the wild and wacky out-of-towner from a rich family that becomes Jess's best friend, is supposed to be 10 year-old female perfection. She's the fastest runner in her year, girl or boy, intelligent beyond her years, and a creative, independent person that follows her own path in life.

She teaches Jess to use his imagination and enjoy life. Awesome, right? Well, except for the fact that she is more a Mary Sue for what the author wishes she was at that age than a remotely believable version of any 10 year-old girl.

Or the fact that she's actually insufferably annoying. And every bit as much of a walking, one-dimensional cliche as every other character in the novel, being zany and quirky in all the conventional, standard ways. One of the biggest things about her that makes her so unique is she doesn't watch television. Seriously. Neither did a bunch of kids growing up. Especially in small towns where this book is set in. Hell, I didn't even watch television for parts of my childhood!

Jess and Leslie dream up the magical kingdom of Terabithia, but are never actually shown playing in it, describing its folklore, magic, or anything else. Defenders of the book will argue that this is so that the reader can imagine it to be whatever he or she wants, but come on; when you have been pushing the imagination motif so hard, why not show it in action? We didn't need an exhaustive summary, but something needed to be there. Of course, that would have took real creativity and writing ability, two qualities the author sorely lacks.

Finally, we get to the themes of the work. Unlike the prose or entertainment, they're not just duds. Instead, they're downright insulting and idiotic.

A big theme at the end of the work is that Leslie dies because Jess chooses to go on a field trip to an art exhibit with a kind teacher instead of playing with her. The novel treats this is a serious point of view, pushing the idea that Leslie's death is "punishment" for Jess not being slavishly devoted to her. That apparently, it was selfish of Jess, at 10 years old, to attend an art exhibit instead of wasting the afternoon playing with a friend.

This is a pretty shitty message to send to kids! Is the idea that instead of growing and learning, they must constantly chain themselves to the people of their past? That they shouldn't have a life outside of a friend or two?!

Moreover, there is no resolution or real point to Leslie's death. (Not a spoiler, since the back cover mentions this fact) The most Jess's father can offer is "Hell, ain't it?".

Instead, her death is one of those lazy, cruel events children's authors use to draw emotion from their young readers. It's easy to get a kid to feel sadness or fright. And hack writers abuse this to toy with children's emotions. It's a way to cover up weaknesses in their writing.

Why think of a truly unique, interesting character with genuine three-dimensional personality (like a Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn) when you can think of a paper-thin, fake personality like Leslie Burke, but have her die?

"Bridge to Terabithia" is a worthless, shitty book, written with lousy language, possessing no entertainment, and bearing an awful, emotionally manipulative message.