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We are thrilled to be sharing RUNAWAY TRAIN by Lee Matthew Goldberg with you today!
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They told me I was an out-of-control train about to crash…
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 90’s, 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 90’s 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.
“Realistic and shocking, hopeful and satisfying, Runaway Train will keep readers turning the page.” — USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Forster
Runaway Train – Soul Asylum
The grunge mixtape I’d made for Kristen has become a permanent fixture in my life, rotating from the car’s tape deck to my Sony Sports Walkman as if it possesses the uncanny ability to keep me further connected to her. We’d gotten into a fight before she died. Not a knockdown, drag-out, hair-pulling kind of battle—more so a test of willpower. I’d taken to smoking cigarettes in my room. This was a new phase. Before I’d previously sneak them in the backyard, but my personality was starting to veer toward not giving a flying pig. She complained about the dangers of secondhand smoke and that she could smell it in her room. I told her she was mental. Then we had our dueling music wars.
Kristen blasted Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover,” super happy pop garbage that I counterbalanced with some Alice in Chains “Dirt” with its heavy guitars, droning vocal harmonies, and drug-induced lyrics. She fought back with Janet Jackson’s insipid “That’s the Way Loves Goes.” Barf city. So I attacked with Soundgarden’s “Jesus Christ Pose,” thrashing guitars yet powerfully ethereal. She cued up some Ace of Base, and I rushed inside her room and turned off that nonsense.
“Like, don’t you want to listen to music that has meaning?” I asked, my blood boiling. How could we come from the same womb and be such polar opposites?
Kristen was wearing a green facemask, her blond hair in a ponytail, ready for bed super early since she had a 6:00 a.m. track practice.
“Don’t you ever want to listen to something that’s not so depressing and moody?”
I started to respond that not all my favorite songs are depressing, but “Jesus Christ Pose” ended and “Face Pollution” began, making my point moot.
“I like songs about love,” Kristen said.
“Mariah Carey is like artificial sweetener.”
“Her songs are catchy,” Kristen said. “Music doesn’t have to open up a vein like you want it to.”
“Will you just give, like, Nirvana a try?” I asked, begging. My eyes were even tearing, unsure why I was getting so emotional.
“Nico, it’s just not for me.”
“I’ll play ‘Drain You’ and you’ll see–”
“I have early practice tomorrow,” she said, turning her nose to the door as an indication for me to leave. So I stomped out and turned my music up even louder, just to piss her off. The next day we didn’t speak and the following morning after that she died so I could feel extra lousy about my shitty self.
NICUnurse’s Review of Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg
Runaway Train is the first book I’ve ever read by this author. And I honestly had no idea what to expect when I first picked this one to read. But I loved the cover, and the blurb had me intrigued. I’m a child of the ’80s, and the ’90s were my college and new adult years, so out of nostalgia, I thought, why not? I can’t say I was a total grunge fan back in the day, but there were artists and songs that I loved, so with the chapter titles reading like songs from a mixtape (brilliant idea!), I thought I’d give this book a try. It was a wild, wild ride!
As Nico’s family is crumbling right before her eyes, her sister’s untimely death rocks her already shaky foundation. She’s screaming toward rock bottom with alcohol and drugs driving her runaway train. She’s floundering, and on the precipice, so she does what she thinks she needs to do to figure it all out and sets out on the road trip of a lifetime to conquer her own bucket list.
Whew…this one put me through the wringer. So much so that days after finishing it, I’m still having a hard time putting my feelings into actual words. I can’t say I ever dreamed of running away, but Nico was kind of fierce and braver than she thought when she embarked on her journey. As a teen, this would have inspired me. As a parent, it’s frightening to imagine one of my kids, especially my daughter, doing something like this, so it was heartening to see Nico find a few genuinely good people along the way. I’m not sure she would have survived her eventual crash without them. And in the end, they give Nico new hope that things can get better in time.
If you like raw, emotional, angsty, yet sometimes comedic young adult fiction, Runaway Train is a book you don’t want to miss. It was a very nostalgic read for me. And I thought the author did a fabulous job delving into a teenage girl’s mind. The book’s tempo also read like a runaway train would feel, which added to the authenticity, in my opinion. I loved the song references and playlist, but it was hard to read the parts where Nico was truly out of control. I’m a parent now, so from that perspective, it was more than heartbreaking. From page one to the very end, this book was absolutely unputdownable for this reader, so I’m quite happy that I took a chance on this story. I’m more than looking forward to the next book in the series!
NICUnurse’s Rating: I give Runaway Train by Lee Matthew
Goldberg 5 out of 5 propellers!
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Meet the Author:
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE ANCESTOR, THE MENTOR, THE DESIRE CARD and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. His first YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN is forthcoming in 2021 along with a sci-fi novel ORANGE CITY. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com
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