February 6, 2020

Review: This Train Is Being Held

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams
Grade: C+
Release date: February 11, 2020
An e-galley was provided by Amulet Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most. Heartfelt and evocative, this romantic drama will appeal to readers of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I really love stories that embrace their New York City setting, especially when they venture out to Brooklyn too. The setting is one of the strongest parts about This Train Is Being Held, since so many key scenes are set on the subway. The voice is also very teenager-y, which is always a plus when it comes to YA.
The main thing I struggled with, though, was the pacing and time jumps. Three years honestly felt like too long of a timeline, and there were too much time between some of the chapters. A story can be set over a longer span, but for a story like this, three years felt too long. I still felt distanced from the characters at the end, because there were things that weren't explicitly shared until much too late in the narrative.
I liked that the two main characters had strong focuses on a hobby/passion - Isa is a dancer, and Alex plays baseball. But at times I felt like they were just details to flesh out their characters; the lack of specificity about some baseball terms/things and some ballet details was a flaw. On that note, I felt Isa's best friend Chrissy was very two-dimensional. She was reduced to a promiscuous stereotype who settles down very quickly with one high school boyfriend, and it was just...weird, for lack of a better word.

Content warnings: racism and racial profiling, bipolar disorder, suicide attempt, police brutality

The Verdict: A bit of a disappointment when it came to the craft and details. Such a good premise and setting deserved better.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No

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