by Paige Harbison
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Reading level: YA
Spoiled and selfish Bridget Duke, the daughter of a local celebrity, thinks that the whole world has turned against her. In a fit of self-pity, she crashes her car. But instead of a bright light and heaven, she finds herself in what looks like a boardroom. It's a strange sort of limbo where she is to be judged for her actions in life by the people she's wronged. Forced to step into the shoes of others, Bridget finally gets to see the effects her actions have had on the people around her. But will she be able to do anything about the past, especially if her apologies fall on deaf ears?
I chose to read this book because, at only 219 pages, I thought it would be a quick read. In fact, it turned out to be way too long.
Bridget Duke is an entirely unpleasant character. 219 pages inside her head is 219 pages too many. The author wrote her as such a horrible person that I could not relate to the girl at all. She was cruel to everybody, including the people who were supposed to be her friends. And she was so clueless about the effect she had on others that I wondered if there was something seriously wrong with her (she almost seems to have a raging case of narcissistic personality disorder, which Wikipedia describes as "being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige"; that fits Bridget exactly).
I guess we're supposed to believe that Bridget is the way she is because she lost a parent. But what I don't buy is that a person can act like the über-bitch from hell for 10 years and then suddenly decide to turn it all around. And, to be fair, I never really felt like she was apologizing out of the goodness of her heart; she still seemed to be thinking about everything in a selfish way.
The plot was pretty basic, with Bridget dying, ending up before a "jury", and then stepping into the shoes of others (literally) to learn some basic lessons in empathy. Even odder was the fact that the author seemed to be turning the story into Cinderella by the end. I don't know where that came from, really. Most of the surprises in the plot weren't surprises (well, not to the reader, anyway; Bridget was so oblivious to anything that didn't directly concern her that I felt like smacking her). And the reason why Bridget was so horrible was never satisfactorily explained. Many children suffer the loss of a parent, but they don't all end up acting like sociopaths.
When I started this book, I was struck by the similarities with Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. But in that story, at least Sam Kingston wasn't completely beyond redemption. Characters -- even if they're antiheroes -- need to have at least some sympathetic qualities; otherwise, the character development and changes (if they come) won't ring true.
All in all, Here Lies Bridget was a quick read. I'm glad I didn't spend any more time on it than I did. For a much better book with a similar theme, read Before I Fall.
Overall: 2.2 out of 5