Bridget Duke rules her school and is unapologetic about it. She’s a holy terror, but people seem to respect her–or maybe they fear her–Bridget doesn’t really think about it as long as they fall in line. When Bridget crashes her car and ends up in limbo, the people she’s hurt the most are the ones who will ultimately decide her fate–unless she can change her ways and mend the breaks in her relationships.
Paige Harbison’s novel is part Mean Girls and part A Christmas Carol. The first half builds up Bridget’s reign of terror and the second half focuses on her reliving events from the perspective of the people she’s hurt. The problem is that this premise doesn’t quite work the way Harbison intended it. Before I get into why the book didn’t work for me, let’s talk about the good.
Harbison isn’t a terrible writer, and she has an ear for dialogue. The characters that surround Bridget have varying levels of depth and characterization, and while Harbison hints at each of the character’s inner turmoil, nothing is confirmed until Bridget begins re-living events through the eyes of her friends and family. The love interest Liam is one of the more compelling characters, but he’s not given much in the way of page time.
The problems with the novel arise in how it’s set up. By the time the reader gets to Bridget’s repentance, she’s such a hateful character that it’s hard to care about her motivations for changing. She’s an irredeemable character whose motivations are completely self-serving and unbelievably vapid. She has no self-reflection skills, no remorse (even though she mentions feeling guilt, it’s always glossed over and never shown), and no real reason for her behavior is ever given. Even her eleventh-hour plea for a second chance and her promises to change ring false, because her actions still seem like she’s trying to save herself instead of actually make amends.
There’s also the fact that the book’s message is a little heavy-handed. When Bridget experiences the memories of her friends, she does so by literally stepping into their shoes. This seemed like a bit much. Also, the re-living of events was mostly a rehashing of what the reader had already seen with very little insight added. These scenes became a bit tedious to get through.
However, this book was still enjoyable. It’s a quick read, coming in at barely 200 pages, and readers who enjoy stories told from the perspective of the popular girl won’t be disappointed by this one. I just wish that there had been a little more substance to the story.
Full disclosure: Electronic copy received from the publisher.
Here Lies Bridget will hit shelves on February 1st, 2011.