Review: This Train is Being Held

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. (via Goodreads)

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Alex and Isa’s story begins with an unexpected subway encounter, which doesn’t seem like too much at first, but the moment they shared stays with them. For the next two months, both are keeping an eye out when they’re on the subway to see if they can catch each other again, but due to their busy schedules – Isa with dance and Alex with baseball – it’s two months before they have another encounter. And that second encounter leaves a bigger imprint on them than the first. Then the story really begins.

Both characters come from different backgrounds. Alex is Dominican, living in Washington Heights with his mom and sometimes stays with his dad in Brooklyn. He has a fear of cops, unless he’s wearing his baseball uniform. His uniform gives him respect from white people rather than nervous glances or angry glares. Alex has a great relationship with his mom, step-mom, and little brother, however, his dad really only cares about how great of a ballplayer Alex is.

Isa is half-Cuban, though with her blonde hair and fairer skin received from her dad’s side, she looks like your regular rich, white girl. She lives in on the Upper East Side and goes to private school, then takes dance classes after school and on the weekends. Her mother, while Cuban herself, is prejudiced against Dominicans or anyone not up to their social status. Isa’s home life is slightly more dysfunctional than Alex’s, especially with her mom’s dislike of the time Isa spends on dance. And this is on top of her mom and older brother being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The relationship between Alex and Isa is sweet when they first start meeting up on the subway, as it’s like an escape from their real lives for a very short time. Though because they do get together fairly early in the story, there’s bound to be problems. Part of it is keeping secrets from one another and the other is misunderstandings between them.

While realistic and totally justifiable, Alex’s fear actually made me angry because no one, no matter what your race, should ever have to have fear around cops or any white person in general. Sadly, that’s how our world is, and the author does an amazing job in making that reality show up in this book. She also did an amazing job with how Isa’s family dealt with the mental illnesses of Isa’s mom and brother, and there were a few times where Merritt (her brother) had given me a scare a few times.

Overall, great book and it’s one that I’d probably reread someday. It’s definitely one that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a story like this!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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