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Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Runaway Train by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Nico is a troubled teen reeling from the death of her sister. After her friends suggest she go on a road trip, she sets out to complete a bucket list. It’s the 90s, at the height of Kurt Cobain’s career, and she’s determined to make it to his house. Along the way she meets assorted people who help her grow and change.


Young adult, historical fiction


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.


I received a free e-ARC in exchange for a review.

This is a tough book to read. A major trigger warning for drug abuse. It’s a very raw exploration of mental illness and is often very upsetting. But the situation it portrays is too often real.

I loved that it was set in the 90s. I love 90s music, and the grunge theme was awesome. Every chapter is named for a 90s song, and I got a bunch of them in my head just from reading the titles. It’s a wonderful homage to grunge, something you don’t see in books published recently.

Kurt Cobain’s impact on people, particularly youth, was explored here, and the reactions to his suicide are captured so well. Many don’t realize the complete devestation that resulted from his death.

I didn’t like the sentiment that suicide is “the easy way out.” A lot of people think that helps to say, but it really doesn’t. Suicidal people aren’t being lazy and cowardly; they need help and support.

Overall I really liked this book, though I had to take some breaks because the drug abuse was difficult to read about. It’s a great story about a girl’s mental health journey, and the author shows great promise. There’s supposed to be a sequel and I am interested in reading it. I would say it is worthwhile.

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