This Train Is Being Held, by Ismée Amiel Williams
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Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Length: 336 pages
Times Read: Once
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. Heartfelt and evocative, this romantic drama will appeal to readers of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.
There are so many things to love about this book. One of the main characters in Dominican Republican, the other is half Cuban. Their cultures play a huge part in each of their lives, either at the forefront or as something that their parent is trying to get away from. There’s a ton of Spanish in the book, so much that I didn’t even attempt to look all of it up and translate like I usually do. And what a refreshing change that must have been for someone who actually did speak the language, to see it so represented on page.
There’s also wonderful mental health rep–bipolar and depression, attempted suicide and ideation. For different reasons, both Alex’s dad and Isa’s mom are real pieces of work. Both are controlling and overbearing, with racist overtones.
The relationship between Alex and Isa is sweet and slow-moving. The book takes place over several years, with a dual POV that each generally has one chapter a month. So before they start seriously dating, it can be months between seeing each of them, which is an odd way of doing things.
Because they come from different worlds, because they’re young, because they both have disapproving parents, they break up and get back together a few times. It’s during one of those times that I started to notice something that really made things take a turn for me.
Isa ends things with Alex, without much of a reason why. He’s hurting, and he continues to reach out for awhile, trying to find out what happened, trying to make sure she’s okay. And that’s okay. After that, he’s still not okay but he tries to move on.
This is why I don’t blame the character for what happens next. I do not think Alex is a trash person. But the behavior we start to see next is so very not okay.
Alex runs into Isa’s best friend, Chrissy, who encourages him to continue reaching out to Isa because she seems depressed. She doesn’t talk to Isa about this, she doesn’t warn her to expect him. And Alex is not garbage, but Chrissy doesn’t actually know enough about him to know that. Chrissy doesn’t know why they broke up either, so for all she knows, she’s sending someone who’s abusive back to her best friend.
But Alex goes. And because Isa isn’t answering his calls or messages, he physically goes to her ballet school to WAIT for her FOR HOURS until she leaves.
This. Is. Not. Okay.
Alex tells her that he came because he hadn’t told her everything about his dad when they were together.
This. Is. Not. Okay.
When she doesn’t immediately jump back into his arms, when she LEAVES, he decides that his next move is to go to her apartment. He doesn’t even know where she lives, but he figures it out based on some landmarks she’s mentioned before. When he gets there to find out she MOVED months ago and never told him, HE STILL TRIES TO STALK HIS WAY TO HER NEW APARTMENT.
THIS! IS! NOT! OKAY!
But the problem is, we’ve been taught to believe that’s it’s terribly romantic.
We’ve all grown up believing that if you we want someone to chase us. We want someone who is going to do anything to get us, anything for us. We’re all shown, over and over again, that saying no, saying you aren’t ready, saying you don’t want to see someone, is never the final answer–it’s merely a opening argument. What we aren’t taught is that this is actually dangerous stalker toxic male energy disguised as romance.
Young boys are taught that if a girl says no to a date, you just have to keep trying! They are never, ever taught that if a girl says no, THAT’S YOUR ANSWER. If a girl breaks up with you, THAT’S YOUR ANSWER. It is not an invitation to continue calling, continue asking, continue pushing, until you get your way.
And coming in after a break-up with a sob story about your past, about your family, about a secret you’ve never told anyone before? It’s not okay to tell someone “I want you to know this now even though we’re broken up.” It’s not sweet, it’s not because you want her to understand you–it’s manipulation. I have had several guys do this to me, and it makes you feel sick. It doesn’t change what happened between you, and it doesn’t change how you feel now about the person–if anything, it makes you annoyed that he didn’t tell you during the relationship, when it would have mattered, when you could have helped. But after? After, it just feels like you’re a dumping ground for all his Big Feelings that he doesn’t know how to process so he decides you should get. And honestly, that’s if you can even believe what they’re telling you at all.
But look: these images all come up if you just search for inspiring relationship advice. Read them without any rOmAnCe in mind, and listen to just how very creepy they truly are:
It really bothers me that we continue to normalize this behavior, especially in YA books, when we have teenagers learning how relationships should function, how they should be treated by others.
In the end, it’s all just another way that rape culture is real and prevalent in everyday life, whether or not you think you’re around it. You are, and if you think you’re not, it’s because you’ve become SO indoctrinated in it that you can’t even see. I hate that this is real life for some women, I hate that we are taught since we are little kids we’re taught that girls need to be pleasant and accommodating, while boys can go after what they want no matter how many times they get ‘no’ for an answer.
But now I want to know what you guys think–is it in books as much as I seem to think? Do you notice it like I do? Has it happened to you IRL? Am I too sensitive? Just kidding too sensitive is not a thing so I don’t want to hear that one. Honestly though, is this stuff that you guys experience as well?