Bridge to Terabithia Questions and Answers
by Katherine Paterson

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Why has Jess gotten up eary every morning during summer?

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The answer to this question can be found in the first chapter of the book.  Jess is one of the story's main characters, and readers are introduced to him when he wakes up in the early morning.  Jess wakes up, hears his father leave, and decides that it is safe to get out of bed.  One of his sisters asks him if he is going to go running.  Jess responds with a "maybe," but readers get to listen in on his thoughts in the next paragraph.  Jess explains that he has been getting up to run every morning during the summer in order to train.  He wants to be the fastest runner in all of the fifth grade.  He figures that his natural talent, coupled with dedicated training, will see him to victory as the fastest fifth grader in school. 

Of course he was going to run. He had gotten up early every day all summer to run. He figured if he worked at it—and Lord, had he worked—he could be the fastest runner in the fifth grade when school opened up. He had to be the fastest-not one of the fastest or next to the fastest, but the fastest. The very best.

Unfortunately, Jess's plans are wrecked by a new student that happens to be faster than anybody else.  That student also happens to be a girl.  

She [Leslie] beat him. She came in first and turned her large shining eyes on a bunch of dumb sweating-mad faces.

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Jess has gotten up early every single morning all summer long. This is definitely not normal behavior for a soon-to-be-fifth grade. Jess is getting up early to train to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He longs to impress his friends, families, and teachers and wants to feel accepted and fit into a "mold" of some sort. So, he hopes that running will allow him to fit into the mold. He is also aware, on some level, that everyone (even people who aren't athletic) will be impressed by his ability to run quickly.

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