Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins


Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.


And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Inside cover of The Girl On The Train

In honor of the new movie, The Girl On The Train, I’ve revisited its book counterpart. I read it at the beginning of the summer, but the new trailers have re-sparked my interest.

Let’s start at the beginning. The book starts off slow and stays that way for a while. I read this alongside my sister-in-law, and we both found it hard to focus at times. There isn’t enough action until the very end, but the end quite possibly makes the book worth reading. (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

The main characters, Rachel and Megan, are okay. Rachel obviously has flaws that contribute to the mystery of the book, but at times she became incredibly boring to travel with. I found myself as a reader going through her routine and feeling like not enough was happening.

Megan, on the other hand, was much more thrilling to read about. The author does a good job weaving little clues into Megan’s perspective, which helped me stay committed to the novel.

The ending was the best part of the entire story. There was great detail, so much so that I could feel the emotion practically jumping off the page. It had my heart racing as a mystery should. If the entire book had been like that, or at least a little bit evocative, I would have enjoyed it so much more.

It’s a decent book, but I don’t think it quite meets the mystery standard simply because it wasn’t consistently interesting. However, I’ve heard from others that they loved it, so it definitely depends on your expectations going in. In the end, I would give it a 3.5 for a good premise and a well-written ending.


How I Fell in Love with Reading


I began reading in kindergarten. First my dad read to me, then I began picking up my own books. By first grade, I was devouring Magic Treehouse books. I enjoyed reading, but I wouldn’t say I was in love with it.

In the third grade, I began reading Harry Potter. I was completely against it at first, but my sister eventually convinced me to give it a try. That’s when I fell in love. I zipped through each book, and because I volunteered in the library, I got to check out the next book before my library day (nerd perks! 😛). When we reached 1000 books, the librarian (who we’d become very close with) celebrated by giving us small gifts. I was given a Harry Potter bookmark that I used day in and day out.


Tributes, Initiatives, and Givers, Oh My!


In the vast world of books, there is one genre that has recently taken the spotlight–dystopia. There are so many out there…Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, The Selection (and those are only a small percentage!).

I think when it comes to understanding the love for this genre, you have to know what it is. A quick Google search reveals it as “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one”.

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking…Don’t some of these occur in places that, well, aren’t completely bad. And you’d be right. Books such as The Giver take place in a utopia, which is basically just the opposite of a dystopia (though the concepts could be debated, especially in situations like the Giver). For the purposes of this article, I’ll be lumping them together.


What is YA Literature?

While I often write about YA novels and their authors, it is important to know what exactly young adult literature is. For starters, young adult novels themselves are novels written for a younger audience, typically middle-schoolers and high-schoolers.

On the surface, that may seem like all that’s necessary for an explanation. Delving deeper, I set out to look at the genre a little more closely.


Jenny Han Announces New Book

Jenny Han recently announced that she will be writing a third installment in her YA series To All The Boys I Loved Before. To celebrate the third and final book in the trilogy, her most recent installment, P.S. I Still Love You, is on sale as an ebook for $1.99. Fans of the series are already excited, and fellow YA authors are showing their support on Twitter.


The Fight to End School Censorship

Today’s article shines a spotlight on a tough topic, censorship, with a focus on one of the most recent cases in the US.

The Fight To End School Censorship
By Kathryn Poole

“Looking for Alaska has once again been challenged, this time by a few parents at Marion County High School, Kentucky for ‘erotic’ content,” John Green wrote in early April, following a group’s effort to pull the book from the school’s curriculum. The author even posted to his Facebook page, asking for support.

John Green is no stranger to censorship. On his Twitter, he writes “This is not the first time Looking for Alaska has been challenged, nor will it probably be the last.”

In fact, according to the American Library Association, Looking for Alaska was the most challenged book in 2015. Books like Looking for Alaska are often pulled from curriculums due to what is considered “vulgar content”. Parents at Marion County complained that it was “pornographic” and “erotic”, choosing to read aloud only specific passages to the community. Some parents and community members have even gone so far as to demand that the teacher be fired. In his Facebook post, John Green asks supporters to write letters to the school in support of the teacher.

It’s sad to see that even in 2016 books are still being challenged. Looking for Alaska is so much more than the very few inappropriate scenes it contains. Like many of John Green’s books, it has reoccurring themes such as growing older and overcoming tragedy. The author clarifies this in his post, writing “I am so grateful to those at Marion County High School who have supported Looking for Alaska and understand that I am not out to corrupt teenagers, and who further understand the importance of reading books critically and thoughtfully as a whole, rather than focusing on individual scenes ripped from their context.”

Not surprisingly, Looking for Alaska is not the first book to be questioned. Even Harry Potter has been challenged for, yes (as crazy as it sounds), promoting witchcraft. Organizations such as the Freedom to Read Foundation and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression are working to prevent further challenges.

If there is any silver-lining, controversies like this are bringing attention and discussion to a topic that deserves support.