Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: The Bridge by Jane Higgins


The Bridge
by Jane Higgins

Pages: 363
Publisher: Text Publishing
Published: August 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781921758331

The City is divided. The bridges gated. In Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation, waiting for a chance to overrun the residents of Cityside.

Nik is still in high school but destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services, the brains behind the war. But when ISIS comes recruiting, everyone is shocked when he isn’t chosen. There must be an explanation, but no one will talk about it. Then the school is bombed and the hostiles take the bridges. Buildings are burning, kids are dead, and the hostiles have kidnapped Sol. Now ISIS is hunting for Nik.

But Nik is on the run, with Sol’s sister Fyffe and ISIS hot on their trail. They cross the bridge in search of Sol, and Nik finds answers to questions he’d never dared to ask.

Firstly, that's one hell of a cover. Click the image for a larger look. The artwork is just incredible.

Secondly, this quote:

      Over the Bridge, it's dark not day
      Over the Bridge, the devils play
      Over the Bridge, their souls are BLACK
      Go over the Bridge and you won't come BACK.

Man, that quote.

Anyway, I borrowed The Bridge from my library solely because it won the Text Prize, an award that went to the amazing This Is Shyness last year, and it definitely deserved the accolade.

The Bridge told the story of Nik, a Citysider whose whole life has led up to being recruited by ISIS. But then, he isn't recruited. And his school is bombed. His best friend dies, and another is taken hostage by Southsiders. With Fyffe in tow, he'll cross the bridge and begin to question things that he's always thought were fact.

The Bridge is Jane Higgins' debut novel, and she's made it clear that she's an author to keep an eye on. Her writing is amazing and her storytelling even better; her idea and the execution were both superb. I haven't read a book with such a realistic and raw account of war since Mockingjay.

The characters were all relatable, and understandable. The latter proved to be important in the story, it being one where we really feel restricted by the point of view and often don't know things beyond our main character. With Nik in a foreign place, we don't know much about anyone else either. I don't often feel like I'm restricted by the narration when reading, but I really should. Higgins has done a brilliant job of realistically telling a story: one where we only know what the first person narrator does. It's too often that our protagonists conveniently know too much. Being desperately curious and afraid alongside Nik helped us connect with him on such a deeper level.

Nik's cause was noble and the lengths he went to in order to fulfill it were so admirable. His character was dynamic, with his motivations and opinions constantly changing in a world full of secrets slowly revealed. But he changed as well, and his development was well-captured.

Twists arise throughout the story, and what we find about the mysterious Southside and the other side to the war is found out gradually. The acquisition of knowledge is smooth and we're learning new things until the dramatic end.

This is an incredible story, exceeding expectations in idea and execution. Text Prize recipients seem to be getting better each year, and I can't wait for both the next winner and the next novel from Jane Higgins

I give The Bridge a 5 out of 5.