Friday, August 29, 2008

Bridge to Terabithia

-- By Miranda

Let me start by explaining precisely why I was reading Bridge to Terabithia when I could have been reading something a) that was written for someone my own age and b) that I haven't already read. First I'll tackle the second point, because that's how I roll. I can't remember when I first read Bridge to Terabithia, but I would say guessing I was about 8 wouldn't be that far off. So it's easily been fifteen years since I read the book, and while I remembered the major plot points, there really wasn't a whole lot I remembered about the book itself. So the fact that I've already read it is, as Joey Tribiani would say, a moo point. As for the first point: when I got home from work yesterday at 5 I had been awake for 14 hours, running on only 3.5 hours of sleep. I was tired, but I knew it was too late in the day to take a nap and stay on an appropriate sleep schedule. So I decided to grab a book off my shelf that I wanted to read and would hold my interest but wouldn't be terribly involved reading.

I'm going to be discussing some spoilers in the next paragraphs, in Orange.

I remembered from the first time I read the book that the ending was sad, but I don't remember crying as hard as I did rereading the book last night. Maybe I was an emotionally stunted 8 year old, or maybe my femotions (that's a combination of "female" and "emotions" if you're unfamiliar with the term) were conspiring against me, but I cried harder last night than I have ever cried at the end of a book. I may have been more sobby than I was the first time I watched My Dog Skip, which is really saying something.

One thing I know I didn't pick up on the first time I read it is how well-written it is. It's targeted at children, but aside from the length (it's only 128 pages, with fairly large print) and the fact that the main characters are 10 years old, there's really nothing childlike about it. The book deals with family, friendship, fears, and death in a way that doesn't talk down to the intended young audience. Reading it now and knowing how it would end, I was able to pick up on the foreshadowing in the earlier chapters: Leslie's essay on scuba diving as her favorite hobby and Jess's fear of water all become significant when Leslie drowns in the creek on her way to Terabithia, the make-believe kingdom where Leslie and Jess are Queen and King. Jess's reaction to his only friend's death is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever read. His anger, confusion, and mourning all feel completely genuine.

I've seen this book on lists of the most frequently banned books, and I can't even begin to fathom why. Because it deals with difficult situations honestly? To paraphrase my friend Katie, is it so wrong to expose children to the bad things that happen in the world? Bridge to Terabithia is a fantastic book that doesn't talk down to the children but also won't fly over their heads. I hesitate to use the phrase, but it's a damn-near perfect book.

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