There is so much to admire in this new book from the author of Liar And Spy, winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The narration is multi-faceted and subtle. It’s a book that addresses an issue – sexting – and manages to approach it with a sense of proportion and humour. The book is never an issue-driven novel. Stead is extremely clever at using her characters’ dialogue to convey an authorial position on the matters at play in their lives – friendship, family, adolescent love.
And in Bridge, a girl who having cheated death by surviving a serious car accident has just returned to school following several years of recuperation, the author has created a character who cannot fail but enter the reader’s consciousness, wearing, as she does all the time, a headband with a pair of cat’s ears attached.
A passage from near the end of the book that doesn’t contain any plot spoilers, except insofar that it propounds a life view in keeping with the story:
That’s what life is. Life is where you sleep and what you see when you wake up in the morning, and who you tell about your weird dream, and what you eat for breakfast and who you eat it with. Life isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something that you make yourself, all the time. Life is that half minute in the morning before your cat remembers she’s kind of a grouch, when she pours out her love and doesn’t give a flying newton who sees it.
I agree with what a reviewer called Tasha on GoodReads says: “Stead finely captures the feeling of middle school, of just being in the process of changing and growing up, of different people being at various points of maturity both physically and mentally, of meeting new people and maybe being attracted in a different way, and of trying to stay friends through it all. Happily too, it is a book that shows the heart of girls, the bravery of being a modern kid, and the choices that are made. This is not a book that laughs at the antics of pre-teens, but one that celebrates them and this moment in their lives in all of its baffling complexity.”