The Boy on the Bridge

By Natalie Standiford

Published July, 2013 by Scholastic Print

Genre: YA Historical fiction, YA realistic/romance

Arc copy via netgalley

Four and a half stars

It is January, 1982 and the Cold War is at its peak.  Nineteen year old Laura Reid, and a select handful of Americans, are studying aboard in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Leningrad. Naive Laura did not know what to expect; especially with her chosen semester taken place during the winter term where Russia is not the warmest of places. Americans are both mistreated and admired. Walking in to get food, the purveyors will bark that they are busy with no customers in his or hers store. Gypsy women surround the bridge by the university, holding bundles that are supposed to be babies that never age or change size. They want every last penny an American has. Laura is no exception. Alone, the gypsies become Laura’s future muggers until a young man comes along.  Surprise!

Meet Alexei Mikhailovich Nikolayev, or Alyosha for short. What starts off as a rescue mission, saving this unfamiliar American girl from Gypsies who are trying to mug her, to a love story. Everyone but Laura Reid suspects something as Alyosha starts to take up a majority of her time, as they always do. He is handsome, trying to learn English, and soon to be the love of Laura’s life.

While the two become closer and more intimate, the riskier their relationship becomes. KGB, prison, being unceremoniously brought back to the US. There are dangers, suspicions, and more that make this a relationship that most couples would retreat from. With all of Alyosha’s black market clothes, books, and music,  it starts to become easy to question him. The last person who wants to is Laura.

Standiford writes a captivating story; so captivating, I hated letting go of it. I couldn’t stop reading until I had to. As I have been to Russia years, it was nice reading about the sights again, remembering the places I saw. This is a fast read that left me with my mouth open, wanting to scream, “That’s it?” I enjoy when books do that to me. This book was no exception. The only disappointing thing about this book was there was no part two. Yes, concept is not wholly original. We have seen it in books before, and movies. Native falls for American.  Secret plans for Green cards, maybe? There was something completely sincere about this novel. It is realistic, and actually beautiful.  The language was simple and fluid. When Laura is hit with a surprise, the reader is, too. It is hard not to feel it all. If you enjoy young adult novels that don’t go your traditional route,  that includes foreign places, historical setting and time, and a more realistic love story, pick this up when you can. I loved this book. I hope you do, too.

Happy reading!