The city is at war.

Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation. They’re hungry to cross the river. Cityside, ISIS—the Internal Security and Intelligence Service—is in charge, the brains behind the war. Its job—keep the hostiles at bay.

The Service only recruits the best for its elite command. Nik is smart. Very smart.

So why does the Service reject him?

Before he can find out, his school is bombed. The hostiles take the bridges, and they’ve kidnapped Fyffe’s brother Sol.

Now Nik is on the run.

And Fyffe is going with him.

Across the bridge.


  • Isaac Nicholls (13 years)
    I hope this author writes more books because this was an action packed adventure that kept me guessing the whole time! It is a fantasy adventure novel about a city at war. There are two sides in the city, Cityside and Southside and they are separated by a river. Both sides want to be in control. When the Southside bomb the Cityside, Fyffe’s brother is kidnapped and the adventure begins. The story centres on two teenage friends, Nik and Fyffe who go over the bridge to the Southside to look for Fyffe’s brother Sol after he has been kidnapped. Nik and Fyffe had always been told the Southside was full of danger and the people were evil and cruel. As the adventure continues, they realise that things are not always as they seem. Nik ends up in a lot of trouble when they confuse him with the enemy and his life is in danger. In the story you will find fighting, danger and heart stopping twists. I recommend this book for young adults who enjoy reading fantasy and adventure novels. The map at the start of the book was really useful because I could check it as I read and it helped me figure out where everything was. I think this would be a great book to make into a movie for young adults. I love that this book was written by a New Zealander because it proves that we have great writers here in our country. Thanks Jane Higgins!
    Isaac Nicholls (13 years)
  • Leanne Hall, Readings Carlton
    Nik Stais has grown up at the Tornmoor Academy on the City side of the river, with all of his efforts directed towards being chosen by ISIS (Internal Security and Intelligence Services) in his final year. But when the ISIS recruiters come calling, Nik is passed over, much to everyone’s shock. Nik begins to push for answers from his teachers, but a wall of silence descends. He is interrupted in his personal quest by the shock bombing of his school by hostile forces from the Southside of the river. In the ensuing chaos, Sol, the little brother of Nik’s close friend Fyffe, is kidnapped. Nik and Fyffe travel over the bridge to Southside on a dangerous mission to try and find Sol. It’s easy to see why The Bridge was chosen as the winner of the 2010 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. It is an intelligent, complex and gripping book that reminded me in parts of Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Though dystopic in nature, it feels 100 per cent real, and raises many interesting issues surrounding war, power, politics, propaganda, militarism, terrorism, ideology and religion. Nik’s physical journey to the unknown, feared and despised Southside of the divided City, is paralleled by an internal journey that sees him question everything he was ever told about the Southsiders, and moves him closer to the truth about his own family history. This is one of those rare books that manages to be layered and thought-provoking, as well as action-packed and entertaining.
    Leanne Hall, Readings Carlton
  • Kim Knight, Sunday Star Times

    War drums beating in Europe inspired a Kiwi author to craft a winner. Kim Knight talks to her. 

    IN the European winter of 1981, martial law was declared in Poland.

    At an ecumenical monastery in the south of France, a young visitor faced a dilemma: go home before the borders closed – or stay, and wonder when he would be allowed re-entry to his land of birth.

    Christchurch woman Jane Higgins remembers her Polish friend went home – and the agony of his decision: "It kind of blew my mind."

    She was in her early 20s. "The young, green New Zealand girl goes to look at the big wide world."

    The Taize monastery – motto: peace through justice and reconciliation – was near a military base. Higgins was there as a volunteer – "cook, bottle washer, picking up the trash...

    "And every now and then we'd be at the church, and there would be a warplane screaming by and you'd get this sonic boom... I thought, `this is serious preparation for war that I'm looking at. And here are these young people who are kind of involved in wars not of their own making'."

    Thirty years later and that formative OE underpins her award-winning novel for young adults. The Bridge, released tomorrow, won Higgins the 2010 Text Prize (open to New Zealand and Australian writers) and a $10,000 publishing contract.

    Her post-apocalyptic read, which mixes questions of faith with fear of the outsider, was three years in the making. Higgins says her first, "much rejected" novel, was lying in a bottom drawer, when she thought, "Perhaps I should I try a short story?"

    "And it just grew and grew..."

    Words were honed at Christchurch's Hagley Writers' Institute, where she and nine others met weekly under the tutelage of poet Bernadette Hall. "She made me think about language in new and exciting ways. Being able to look at language sideways was something I got from her."

    Higgins' first creative story-telling efforts were at Christchurch's Sacred Heart Girls' College, where she devoured classic science fiction and fell in love with Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea series.

    "The line I got back from the teacher was `write what you know' – and if you look at my career since then, that's exactly what I've done. I've gone out and I've researched and studied and made sure that everything I write about, I really, really know about."

    She's talking about her work as a social researcher at Lincoln University – including a study of teenagers born after 1984, the post-Rogernomics generation, in which participants surprised her by asking why she wasn't asking about religion.

    "I have become aware that spirituality has become important to young people... even if it's just banging up against it and saying `no, I don't agree with that'."

    A long time social justice champion, Higgins has campaigned – among other things – against the Springbok tour, sexism in the Catholic Church, and the Employment Contracts Act. She credits a teacher and nun, Susan Smith, with encouraging her involvement in peace and justice movements.

    In The Bridge, teenagers must sift fact from fiction from propaganda. Knowledge truly becomes power – and not every character has a happy ending.

    "I did think hard about that. But I also thought, `this is what happens in war'. My grandmother lost a brother... young people die in war and I think that reality was brought home to me travelling, and opening the newspaper every day of the week."

    Higgins learnt she won the Text prize last winter. "My husband was coming home from the airport. I texted him just a whole series of smiley emoticons. We've been celebrating ever since."

    This year's winner, announced last week, is Melbourne-based freelance journalist Myke Bartlett. Entries for next year's competition open in May 2012. Higgins' advice for wannabe writers?

    "I think it's about making a mess at first. Not expecting it to come out perfect first time. It's tempting to say `that's awful' and walk away, but once it's down on the page, you can rework it."

    Kim Knight, Sunday Star Times
  • Marianne
    The Bridge is the first novel by New Zealand author, Jane Higgins. It is the winner of the Text Prize for YA and Children’s Writing in 2010. Since he was orphaned at the age of five, Nik Stais has lived, learned and excelled at Tornmoor Academy, hoping to be chosen by the Internal Security and Intelligence Service to use his talents in the fight that Cityside wages against the hostiles on Southside. Now seventeen, he and his friends are surprised and indignant when ISIS omits him from their intake. Soon after, Tornmoor is bombed, Nik’s best friend, Lou dies in the attack, and Lou’s eight-year-old brother, Sol is kidnapped by hostiles. Nik is determined to cross to the Southside, determined to find Sol, and that means going over the bridge. Sol’s sister Fyffe insists on going with him. As they infiltrate the enemy, they learn that not everything they have been taught about these people, the hostiles, the Breken, is true. They find themselves in the middle of a dispute between factions, and Nik discovers some shocking truths about his own past. Higgins has created a believable dystopia where propaganda, misinformation and indoctrination of youth maintain the status quo. She feeds the information about her world to the reader in manageable doses, not too fast to cause overload, not too slowly to incite boredom. Her characters are multi-faceted and appealing (or repugnant as required by the story), and Higgins is not afraid to kill some of them off if needed. Her plot is original, has quite a few twists, and, without the dissatisfaction of a cliff-hanger ending, allows enough scope for the story to continue. This prize-winning novel is an amazing debut and readers will be pleased to know there is a sequel, Havoc.
  • Rashika
    I went into The Bridge expecting something that involved more secret agents but what I got was an intense dystopia that did not hold back on the realities of war. I have to say, with two good dystopias on my recently read list (this being one of them), I might just be ready to give dystopia another chance. I had thought I was done but The Bridge reminded me why I had once been so thrilled by this genre, why I had sought it out so much. The Bridge, simply put, is a phenomenal read and one more people need to know more about. It tells a tale of war and it doesn’t sugar coat the casualities. It’s fucking brutal and oh my god I cannot. Okay. I iz done with my moment. I am back and I am thinking about pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows because unicorns. Obviously, this book isn’t perfect because it’s hard for a book to be perfect but I really appreciated that it wasn’t some watered down version of a dystopia. There are two sides to the story and while one side of the war is made out to be worse than the other, people are divided everywhere and things are not picture perfect. In fact, no one is completely brainwashed either. They may be brainwashed into believing that the other side deserves what happens but that is the case for both sides and that’s what happens in war! People who never get a chance to see the other side of the story will probably continue to believe that the other side is the one to blame for all their problems. In this story, we also have a young boy who isn’t out to change the world, what he is out to do is bring back his best friend’s younger brother who got kidnapped by a bunch of traffickers. He isn’t out to find out that his entire life has been a lie and that there is more to the war that he has been told there was. When he finds himself amongst the resistance, the people who want something more than a war, he starts to learn more and finds himself in a situation where he trusts his supposed enemies. Nik is a fantastic main character and before I say anything else, I just want to say that Nik is a person of color. That made me so happy because heck yeah to diversity. Nik is a fantastic character and I adored reading the book in his point of view. He is completely original and it’s fantastic to see how loyal and dedicated he is to people he cares about. I adored seeing his transformation over the course of the book and I enjoyed watching him become the young man that I loved him to be by the book. There were times when the story was a little hard to follow because I was drifiting off but those moments were few and far in between and also happened when I was staying up late into the night to read this book (because late at night seems to be the only time I’ve had to read lately). I think one of the big things that stood out to me in this book was that, like in The Glass Arrow, this story does not place the responsibility of an entire world on the shoulders of a 17 year old  (the main character in The Glass Arrow was younger but that is beside the point). There are already people fighting for change, people who aren’t complete assholes! There may be certain weird dynamics within the group, but as a whole they are still united and fighting for a common cause -- for the betterement of the living standards of their people-- and that is beautiful. The world is also well developed and I just really liked seeing the differences between the two different sides of the city. We get some background into why this war came to be and there are explanations! Plus, there is a map included if you ever get confused about where things are and how many bridges there are (answer= a lot).
  • Arlene
    The Bridge by Jane Higgins is definitely an award-worthy story in its own right. Winner of The Text Prize this intricate novel weaves heavy themes such as political power, friendship, self-identity and survival into a perfectly executed example of writing at its finest. In this novel, Nik and his fellow classmates of Tornmoor Academy live in a world where their city is at war. There’s the Southside where the hostiles live in desperate, harsh conditions and are fighting to cross the bridge to Cityside, where ISIS controls the area and keeps the hostiles at bay. ISIS comes to Tornmoor Academy to recruit the finest for their cause and immediately after being denied by this elite command, Nik’s school is bombed and he finds himself on the run with his best friends Dash, Fyffe and her little brother Sol. As the story progresses and suddenly Sol is kidnapped by Southside, Nik and Fy infiltrate the Southside camp and uncover details about the war that Cityside has so masterfully concealed. Nik was a flawless narrator for this novel. He makes the story shift and flow at a deliberate pace that makes you feel like you need to work for the details and answers and when they unfold, there’s a sense of fulfillment that kept me digging for more. I loved his quiet strength and constant determination; and my heart broke for him at the end when he was faulted for something that truly he didn’t deserve. Nik and Fy were the true champions in this book and I commend Jane Higgins for not clouding their story with a needless romance, but rather a genuine friendship. There are other characters that deserve a standing ovation, but for this review I’ll dedicate the stage to my favorite ones Nik and Fy. There is so much about the ending of this story that screams for a sequel. I want to know who the Academy’s insurgent was? I have my guesses, but I want them confirmed. I want to know what will come of Fy. I fell hard for her character and really came to care for her cause and her values. I’m curious what will come of Dash and Jono despite not caring for them as much. The Bridge was great, but I feel there’s more to tell. Overall, I enjoyed every aspect of this story and I’m hoping there’s a sequel to ease my mind. Awesome book!