Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg (Runaway Train #1)

Runaway Train

Runaway Train
by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Coming of Age/Young Adult/Contemporary

294 Pages

Book #1 Runaway Train series

Published by Wise Wolf (29th April 2021)

Purchase from | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Book Depository | Fishpond AU* |

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating of 4.5

Nico is an out of control train about to crash, at least, that’s what everyone keeps telling her. When a policeman knocks on her family’s door, she’s the first to be told that her sister Kristen has died, Nico’s train begins it’s slow derailment to rock bottom. The only thing that Nico can think to do, is to live each day like it’s her last, because it very well might be. It’s the 90s, and Nico’s idol Kurt Cobain is only day’s of travel away. So she sets out on a trip that any true grunge kid would have done, she starts her trek to Seattle, heading for Kurt Cobain’s house. She just wasn’t aware of the life changing experiences she would have along the way. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can start to pull ourselves together, and that’s exactly what Nico is going to do.

When the author approached me to review this book, I was intrigued. It’s not something I normally read, I’m more of a fantasy and horror person, but I’ll give anything a go, especially after realising that some of the best books I’ve read are total ballparks away from what I’d normally choose. I was even more keen to read this when I saw that it was based in the 90s. I was a 90s kid, born in 1986, so I was looking forward to stepping back in time for a wild ride, and that’s exactly what I got.

Nico is your typical sixteen year old grunge kid. She’s a stoner, wagging school to get blitzed at the Viper room to honor River Phoenix, who’s death she’s more vocal about than her own teenage sisters. Understandably so, though. At sixteen, your life is virtually just beginning, so losing your sibling at such a young age would be incomprehensible, especially when you’re so close in age. Nico is painted as a no hoper, heading for a crash that looks like it’s coming sooner rather than later. And that’s exactly how I saw her as well. Her character annoyed me in the beginning, I won’t lie, she was a mess, a hot mess, the hottest mess that ever did mess. And her friends weren’t much help, though one of them ends up giving her the idea to do this huge road trip, and runaway, so I guess in the end, they did help her.

The characters were exceptionally well written. Nico is shown as an off the rails, stereotypical, no hoper, which is made more apparent from the beginning when her sister dies. She’s stuck in a rut, with no hope to ever get out of it, and all she does is smoke and drink her days away while wagging school with her friends. Friends that are also painted as the same stereotypical no hopers. One struggling with the aspect of being gay and attempting to deal with that. The characters that Nico meet along the way are all imperative to her growth throughout the story, and each of them was so well written and three dimensional. Nico’s character growth throughout this story was phenomenal, and it honestly doesn’t hit until she’s back at home after her whirlwind bucket list trip. When she’s back with her friends who are doing the same old damn thing that they always have, that’s when you realise the journey that Nico has made and how far she has come from it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those ‘everything has changed and she’s become a straight A student’ in one book thing, but you can see visible growth from what she started the story as, and that made me smile.

At first glance, some of the things that Nico gets up to on her adventures, and the fact that she set off to do it in the first place without her parent’s knowledge, seems far fetched. But, it was the 90s. This was a time when the only way to really stay connected was by telephone, dial up internet and letters in the mail. There was no social media, no outlet for people to be posting their every whim and thought for the world to see, there was none of that. So for someone to lay down a believable story and just disappear, it was easy. These days people can’t help but post about every little thing they’re doing in their life, and it really makes me appreciate the time that I grew up in a little more.

The story itself was well thought out and executed. It was a coming of age journey set against the back drop of one of the most prolific deaths that the music industry has ever seen. Kurt Cobain, part of the 27 club, I don’t really remember where I was or what I was doing on the day he died, and I was never really a Nirvana fan, so it didn’t hit me like it did others. But I do remember the crowds that gathered to mourn him, his fanbase and the people he saved, mourning the fact that he could not save himself. The way Goldberg wrote this story was wonderful and it really took me back in time to the era that was.

All in all, this was a fantastic read, and I reckon up there as one of my favourites for the year. You better believe I was excited as to find out that there is a sequel, which I will be devouring as soon as humanly possible. I’m keen to see where Nico goes next and I’m hoping the ride is just as wild as what this one was.

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