Saturday, May 1, 2021

Book Review: "Runaway Train" by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to find your way back up. That's one of the messages conveyed in Lee Matthew Goldberg's new YA novel, Runaway Train.

“My sister Kristen died the same day as the actor River Phoenix, October 31st, 1993, he from a drug overdose in the middle of the night outside the Viper Room, her on an early morning run through Laurel Canyon, two days before her seventeenth birthday.”

Although 16-year-old Nico and her sister were very different, she’s still devastated by her sudden death. With her parents ignoring her because of their own grief and dysfunctional relationship, Nico spends her days with her two best friends, Winter and Jeremy, getting high, drinking, cutting school, and listening to grunge music.

Nico is full of anger and angst, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Her friends encourage her to run away for a while, maybe cross some things off her bucket list, and ultimately wind up at her musical idol Kurt Cobain’s house in Seattle.

The journey she goes on is eye-opening in many ways, full of beautiful, sad, and disappointing moments. Her sister’s spirit accompanies her, as does a mixtape she made for Kristen, which provides music for the journey. She meets an interesting crew of people along the way, some who show her that life is worth being present for and that it’s still worth living, despite her grief.

But before she can figure out what’s next, she’s on a collision course with sadness and her self-destructive, anger-filled behaviors. Will she be able to appreciate the good things she’s experiencing on this trip? Can she save herself before it’s too late?

Runaway Train so perfectly captured teenage angst and the spirit that pervaded the mid-1990s. Nico isn’t an entirely sympathetic character but her emotions and her attempts to manage them felt very real.

As a fan of grunge music of that era, I loved all the references to bands and songs. (Even before I started reading this, I found myself singing Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train." Little did I know some of the lyrics would appear in the book's epigraph!) I’m looking forward to Goldberg’s second book in this series.

Suzy Approved Book Tours, Wise Wolf Books, and Lee Matthew Goldberg provided me with a complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!!

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