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TLC Tour: YA Review: Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Title: Runaway Train

AuthorLee Matthew Goldberg

Year Published: 2021

Category: YA fiction
Pages: 294
Rating: 4 to 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (CA, OR, WA)

Summary (from Amazon): Everything changed when the police officer knocked on the door to tell me - a 16-year-old - that my older sister Kristen had died of a brain aneurysm. Cue the start of my parents neglecting me and my whole life spiraling out of control.

I decided now was the perfect time to skip town. It's the early '90s, Kurt Cobain runs the grunge music scene and I just experienced some serious trauma. What's a girl supposed to do? I didn't want to end up like Kristen, so I grabbed my bucket list, turned up my mixtape of the greatest '90s hits and fled L.A.. The goal was to end up at Kurt Cobain's house in Seattle, but I never could have guessed what would happen along the way.

At turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and laugh out loud funny, Runaway Train is a wild journey of a bygone era and a portrait of a one-of-a-kind teenage girl trying to find herself again the only way she knows how.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Review: I thought this was going to be a light-hearted road trip novel, but I was wrong. It is much deeper than that. Nico is unhappy, but not just "oh this will pass" unhappy, she really feels things deeply and with her sister's death and her parents' divorce, she just needs out. Leaving town (running away) is her answer. Finding Kurt Cobain in Seattle seems to be the solution to all her worries.

Music plays a huge role in this novel. Each chapter title includes a song title and name of the band who sings the song. Nico talks about her mix tapes, blasting music, lyrics she likes, and the band members she wishes she could date. In fact, Soul Asylum's Runaway Train (all about kids who disappear off the streets) is quoted at the front of the book and referenced often. So, I've included the music video here.

I think students will like this novel. It's got music, angst, a road trip, as well as family and friend drama. There is also a lot of drinking, pot smoking, swearing, and references to sex. And some other drug use. It's a pretty raw book. There are tons of  early'90s references, too, which is fun.

Nico's journey is important to her and a pivotal event in her life as well as the arc of the book. The ending is hopeful without being too sappy or unrealistic. All in all, as an adult, this book is a 4, but it will rate higher with high school students.

Challenges for which this counts: none, but this is part of a TLC Book Tour.

Thursday, April 29th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, April 30th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, May 3rd: Stacy’s Books
Tuesday, May 4th: Instagram: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf
Wednesday, May 5th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, May 6th: Instagram: @shobizreads
Friday, May 7th: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads
Monday, May 10th: Instagram: @bookishinthebay
Tuesday, May 11th: Jessicamap Reviews
Wednesday, May 12th: Living My Best Book Life
Thursday, May 13th: Write – Read – Life
Friday, May 14th: Instagram: @the.bookish.traveler
Monday, May 17th: My Fictional Oasis
Tuesday, May 18th: Instagram: @joannasbookshelf
Thursday, May 20th: Instagram: @quietmountainreader
Friday, May 21st: Instagram: @bookoholiccafe
Friday, May 21st: Run Wright
Monday, May 24th: Teachers Who Read
Tuesday, May 25th: Instagram: @bookish.bethany
Wednesday, May 26th: Instagram: @sams_bookstagram
Thursday, May 27th: Instagram: @theliteraryllama

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