Cover Image: This Train Is Being Held

This Train Is Being Held

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed reading several aspects of this book! The pacing was wonderful, characters were well drawn, and the reading experience on the whole was delightful.
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This book was amazing! I expected it to be as soon as I read the summary but it surprised me how easily I got into it. This story was a slow burn romance between two characters who meet in the NYC metro. Their lives are completely different, but they both had in common family issues.
This was one of the things I most loved about the book explored the complex family dynamics of Latinx families. The two characters were adorable and together I was rooting for them since they met.
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This Train is Being Held is one of those books I didn't get to until after release even though it seemed right up my alley. An unlikely romance between a dancer and baseball player from a meet cute on the subway? But This Train is Being Held is a book that tackles tough issues of racism, mental illness, and heartbreak. It encompasses this huge range of emotions and action that leaves you feeling like you just ran to catch a train. While it has these elements of romance, it's a book that is more emotionally intense especially as the book progresses.

Their two different worlds collide in an explosion of color, privilege and prejudice. Despite their families, their different versions of their future, and their schedules, can they be together? Isa is a white passing biracial Cuban American and Alex is a Dominican American whose baseball uniform changes his appearance in the eyes of society. This central conflict is manifested and explored in a variety of instances from the way strangers treat them together, their family expectations, and their own images of their future.
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An compelling novel with really distinct characters the romance between alex and isa was very sweet. Cant wait to read more from this author
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THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD was cute, unique and a really enjoyable read!

Told by the dual perspectives of Isa and Alex, our two MCs, this story spans not days, not months, but YEARS as the two of them repeatedly run into one another in no place more romantic than... the subway.

It's a romcom-type meet-cute, but it's also a story of immigrants, of prejudice; it touches upon hatred just as it touches upon love. It deals with lightness and heaviness without losing touch with the heart of the story, and the romance was... a little insta-love, but done beautifully well.

This story pulls on your heartstrings, but it's also one that instantly brings a smile to your face. I really enjoyed it!
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I went in to this book expecting the typical YA romance but that wasn’t the case, the main characters had real problems and issues going on and their conversations had depth. 
Personally for me the pace was too slow and therefore it dragged a bit, however the writing was beautiful. I would recommend that you give This Train is Being Held a go. 

3.5 stars
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The Train is Being Held is about far more than just two teenagers having a meet-cute moment on the subway, which was both good and bad. Good because I thought the author delved into a lot of pertinent topics like racism, classism, mental health and struggling to meet parental expectation – all while falling in love for the first time. The flip side was that I felt like I needed more time and a much deeper development to capture all the growth and drama that the two main characters, Isabelle Warren and Alex Rosario, experience over the course of three years. Trying to stick to subway encounters and using time jumps to cover that period of time didn't really allow for that in a way to be even more meaningful. When private school student and aspiring ballerina Isabelle meets Dominican-American star baseball player Alex, it's pretty much attraction at first sight. As the 1 train keeps throwing them in each other's path, they learn more about what's lies beneath the surface. He struggles with wanting to go to college and study poetry (I admittedly didn't love the inclusions of his poems) with his father's push to go major league. While Isabelle's unstable mother and family drama make her feel like she always has to be okay and perfect. Alex and Isabelle help each other to pursue their dreams and I found their relationship to be very sweet and romantic. But as I said that something more was missing for me to really fall in love with this book, despite all the great elements it had going for it.

Do I recommend? It's a sweet, quiet book that read really quickly for me. If you're at all interested, I'd recommend borrowing from the library.
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I was partially surprised by this book. I went in expecting a fluffy romance but the author gave the main characters real issues to deal with. Both are dealing with difficult parents and trying to figure out their future. Their talks on the subway got really personal 

As I read more, the more disappointed I became and it had to do with the time frame and the romance. The relationship between them starts off well but then came the miscommunication and the unnecessary drama. This book has a slower pace than what I thought I was getting. Longer than I thought actually. From the synopsis, you would think that this takes place over a few weeks or maybe even a year. I just felt like I missed so much in the time span it stretched across. 

While it wasn't for me, I do hope that others enjoy this more than I did.
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One of my goals for 2020 is to read more novels with Latinx characters by Latinx authors, and I was thrilled to find that This Train Is Being Held featured not one but two Latinx protagonists, I was thrilled! The story follows Isa, a white passing, half Cuban ballerina, who meets Alex, a Dominican-American aspiring pro-baseball player, on New York public transit. Existing in different classes, social circles, and areas of New York, they keep running into each other on various trains until they realize there is definitely a spark between them that they both can’t deny.

While this is definitely a YA Romance novel, I found there to be so much more going on in this story that helped develop Alex and Isa’s world into a fully immersive reading experience. Both of their families play a major role in their lives and in the story, from Alex’s divorced parents (his Dad is an ex-MLB player who is pushing him to follow in his footsteps and his mother and stepmom whom he has great relationships with) to Isa’s seemingly privileged and inaccessible family (that’s fraught behind the scenes with mental illness). Both of their families (and even friends) have prejudices and preconceptions about why their relationship should never work, especially Isa’s mother who despite being Cuban, has a deep distrust of Latino men due to her own issues with her father. Yet the story doesn’t turn into a “let’s be together despite what our families think” situation. Though both having flawed families, Isa and Alex both care deeply for their parents and siblings and often choose to prioritize them first, though it caused problems between them, which was heart-wrenching yet realistic at the same time.

This story also really dove into the topic of mental illness in an honest and raw way. Isa’s mother is bipolar and so is her older brother Merritt. One of the first times we meet Isa, she’s tiptoeing around her mother, hoping she can leave for dance class without her mother having an episode. Throughout the course of the novel we see Isa having to be the rock of her family when things start falling apart, and though at times she can seem emotionless and detached, it’s clear that her behavior is a coping mechanism because she’s so often not able to react on her emotions due to always watching out for her mother and brother. Yet at the same time, Isa is terrified of exhibiting any signs or symptoms of bipolar disorder herself, as it’s a constant looming threat hanging over her since she’s seen several close family members suffer from it. While This Train Is Being Held isn’t a mental health focused book exactly, it did an honest job showcasing that mental illness can run in any family and the toll it takes on those dealing with it, and that money or privilege doesn’t make you immune to its affects.

As mentioned previously, both Isa and Alex come from different Latinx cultural backgrounds. Alex’s family is still very much involved in their Dominican culture, speaking primarily Spanish and still keeping their culture alive through food, family gatherings etc (and what mouth-watering food it is! There are some wonderful food descriptions in this story!) Isa, meanwhile, has a much different relationship with her Latinx heritage, and while she speaks Spanish, she’s white passing and doesn’t have many of the same struggles or fear of authority that plague Alex, and her family is less open in their celebration of their culture (probably partially because her Dad isn’t Latinx, and also because her mother seems to have assimilated pretty thoroughly into American culture and doesn’t speak Spanish or reference her Cuban background much). Both families have preconceived notions about the other (positive and negative) and it was refreshing to see multiple Latinx cultures explored in one novel.

Alex and Isa’s story takes place across the span of quite a bit of time (if I remember correctly, at least 1-2 years) and sometimes there were big time jumps between scenes. I didn’t find this jarring, however and found that it fit with the overall theme of them meeting by happenstance at different points of their lives on the train. At the end of the story the tension definitely increased as many of the elements that had been simmering in the background came to a peak in an action scene that was honestly a little more intense than I was expecting (though I couldn’t put the book down!).

Overall: This Train is Being Held is an honest exploration of growing up Latinx in today’s American society and highlights both the differences and similarities of the experiences of the characters. While at times some of the decisions the characters made could be a little frustrating, it was realistic given their personal and family situations and it was fascinating to see how fate kept bringing them together on the train. It’s a story of coming of age, finding yourself, rejecting and embracing familial expectations and most of all finding your person in perhaps the unlikeliest of places.
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A story about a chance encounter on the New York Subway where millions and millions of people pass through? Yes I am here for it. Ismee Williams wrote this heart warming YA story that is character driven about Isa and Alex. Isa is Cuban-American and lives in the Upper East Side of Manhattan who is a talented and passionate ballet dancer attending a private school. Isa’s mother is dead set on her pursuing medicine. Our other protagonist is Alex, who is Dominican-American athlete who plays baseball and whose father’s dream is for Alex to go pro, but of course, Alex has other dreams of becoming a poet. 
I thought the writing was beautiful, never rushed and the development of their characters and the relationship was Williams writing talent. This was a great YA book that is deep and touched upon very important issues with families and relationships in this day and age.
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I enjoyed this one. It's a fun comparison between ballerina and baseball player, along with Latinx representation. The plot was entertaining, and although it wasn't always the main focus, the book also didn't shy away from addressing race issues in the U.S, which I appreciated. I'm not sure I loved all the characters, but all in all enjoyed reading this book.
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Trigger Warnings for: mental health discussion and suicidal attempt, gang violence, 

What a win for the Latinx community! This was such a good book and it deserves more hype. I will say if you don’t like hard hitting YA contemporary, you won’t like this book. The format in which this book was written gave it an edge, also since it was done over a period of time I grew to really care for these characters. The cover is to DIE for and I can’t wait to have this is my collection.
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In many ways, this book is like a more complex version of movies like  Save the Last Dance. It has the elements standard to a lot of teen fiction: privileged girl meets underprivileged streetwise boy; privileged teen adjusting to a change in circumstance; initial romance complicated by a series of misunderstandings; even the parent pressured athlete with the soul of a poet. That's a lot o cliche in one book. I have to wonder, though, if Williams is doing this intentionally. Because a lot of these cliches are just masking deeper issues. Isa is seen as a rich white girl, but has Cuban roots and family secrets. Alex is Dominican, his background obvious to even casual observers and the source of constant judgement. They are both somewhat hindered by other peoples perceptions and judgements. We're dealing with a lot of carefully orchestrated masks, hiding issues that feel too big to explain or even deal with. Williams has taken a shallow notion and granted it a surprising amount of depth. As a teen romance it's end result is fairly predictable but the journey is far more engaging than I had expected.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of This Train is Being Held by Ismee Williams.


Isabelle is a successful dancer who is constantly trying to escape the attentions of men.  Alex is a successful, well known ball player, who, when out of his uniform, it often profiled for his skin color.  Both continue to have happen meetings on the subway that slowly morphs into a romance.  But social pressures, racism and stereotypes could possibly stand in their way.

These are important stories.  Even in 2020 there are still hardships in not only mixed race relationships, but mixed socioeconomic relationships as well.  I felt like there were a lot of elements in the story that hit home well.  However, as a parent, there was also a bit about the relationship that made me uncomfortable.  I didn't like how volatile some of their behavior was, and I especially didn't like the jealousy or borderline controlling behavior.  It happens, but I don't like that it was almost made acceptable, because in my opinion it's not.
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Wow. The romance at the center of this book grabbed me from their first interaction and held me completely captivated through to the end. The plot however was a different story. It was a lot harder to connect to because the book takes place over a pretty long period of time and we only really get glimpses of what is going on every few weeks, so while I 100% believed in Alex and Isa's relationship (it reminded me A LOT of being a teen and having random crushes on people I would see on the train), the pacing of the story as a whole left a little to be desired. I did still really enjoy this and definitely recommend checking it out, but I would advise going in prioritizing romance over plot.
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A book with so much heart and depth and vulnerability it takes your breath away. 

I found myself rooting for these characters from the very beginning. Two kids leading two seemingly different lives but both feeling pulled towards each other in an almost alchemical way.. Isa and Alex are a contemporary Romeo and Juliet, their story is sweet, romantic and harrowing. The way they treat each other, for better or for worse, is so real to how young adults would behave when facing situations like this. Normally, I would find their behavior annoying, but I think that I didn't here because this was so well written. They kept things from each other because they were things that were too big for themselves to carry and couldn't imagine putting that on someone else's shoulder for fear of rejection. Who didn't feel that way when they were 16?

There's a lot covered in this novel, from the light to the deep, racism, female sexuality, mental health, coping mechanisms, the pressure to succeed, racial profiling, gangs, suicide. And while that seems like so much that a book couldn't possibly manage it all, Williams pulled it off in such a refreshing and simple way. She let the issues have full arcs, whether long or short, that treated them with the attention and care they deserved. I'm so impressed, this was definitely not a sophomore slump.
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This Train is Being Held is a heartfelt book about love, family, and the secrets we keep. Isa and Alex are both complex, flawed, and sympathetic characters with their own families, dreams, and worries. Isa's passion for ballet and Alex's love for poetry were tangible and instrumental in defining their characters and expressing their sentiments. Their romance is tender but weighed down by the tensions of words unspoken. Through the juxtaposition of these two characters, their families, and their friends, the story explores the insidious effects of racism, colorism, and classism, which create walls between people with privilege and people with less. I enjoyed the loving but complicated relationships Isa and Alex had with their respective families and appreciated that the conflicts between them were ultimately addressed, even if the outcome wasn't ideal in all cases.
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Of all the loves I have, New York City and trains are amongst my most enduring. When I heard about This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams, a story about chance encounters on the New York subway, I knew I had to read it.

What attracted me the most was the promise of a character-driven story about two Latino teens whose lives couldn't be more different. Living in an exclusive Upper East Side apartment and attending private school, Isa wants nothing more than to be a ballet dancer but her Havana-born mother wants Isa to become a doctor. She certainly doesn't want her blonde-haired, light-skinned daughter dating Latino boys.

Alex is an extremely talented Dominican-American baseball player. His parents have long split up and all his father cares about is Alex going pro. While that would certainly solve his family's financial woes, it isn't what Alex wants to do. He has a secret talent and wants to be a poet.

When Isa and Alex meet on the downtown 1 train, they can't help noticing each other. Isa remembers Alex's green eyes and good manners, while Alex notices Isa's easy rich-kid confidence. Over the course of the next three years, their encounters increase until they are irrevocably drawn into each other's lives.

Wait, what? Three years? This Train Is Being Held is a massive slow-burn of a book. There were so many times that I almost gave up on this novel because it moves very slowly - exactly as you'd imagine chance encounters on a train to move - and for the longest time it just felt like a romance but it is so much more.

This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams | Superior Young Adult Fiction | Book Review For the patient ones who stick with this book, and I do recommend that you do, there is the reward of an incredibly rich tapestry of themes. Alex's story focuses on racism, the prejudice he encounters because of his dark skin and the ever-present scourge of gangs. He dreams of being better, achieving at sport and becoming something but he wants to become something else too, a writer and a dreamer.

Isa has a rich, spoiled and privileged background but she wants to be a dancer and sticks to that dream despite the extremely challenging events in the book and the devastating impact of bipolar disorder on her family.

The hardest thing about This Train Is Being Held was how much Isa and Alex pushed each other away to deal with stuff that should have been shared. It was also very realistic and indicative of life in the digital age. It is so easy to ghost and block people when living in a city of millions of people but sometimes you need to let people in.

Ultimately, I loved so much about This Train Is Being Held. I loved the New York setting and want to go back so badly now. The fact that most of the story took place on trains also made the trainspotter in me extremely happy.

I tore through those last pages, holding my breath with my heart pounding out of my chest. Despite initially moving slower than a train at a red-signal, I give This Train Is Being Held an excellent four out of five stars and recommend to readers seeking diverse voices and explorations of themes such as mental illness and racism.
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A modern romance inspired by West Side Story, This Train is Being Held is full of beauty and heartache, touching on young love, mental health, and racism. Isabelle and Alex meet on a subway train in NYC, and so begins the saga of their love story against all odds, often featuring the subway.

Isa is a white-passing Cuban-American ballet dancer who attends a private school and dreams of being a professional dancer while her mother pushes her toward medicine. Her family life is complicated with both her mom and older brother being diagnosed as bipolar, and a mom who has racist tendencies toward anyone with darker skin.

Alex is a Dominican boy and talented baseball player, pushed by his over-zealous father to focus all his attention on the sport. He is very aware of his brown skin and regularly experiences micro-aggressions and has had negative experiences with the police. One of his friends is slipping into gang activity and he doesn't know how to help.

Isa and Alex fall hard and fast for each, but their lives are complicated and both of them are hiding significant struggles from each other. They have a very sweet relationship, with Alex hiding poetry under train seats for Isa to find, but I was very frustrated with their lack of communication. The author is definitely self-aware about this and there is an arc of growth late in the book, but and a former oversharer, I had a difficult time relating. I can't imagine falling in love and not sharing such critical information as Isa and Alex hide. That said, there is a lot to love here.

We get a rich and nuanced portrayal of mental health, racism, and Latinx culture. The author is Cuban-American and there is a great deal of Spanish woven into the text. Non-speakers might be frustrated with the lack of translation, but I thought it was beautiful and well-done. I didn't go in expecting this to hit on such serious issues. While it is a romance, it also has elements of a hard-hitting contemporary, so do check content/trigger warnings if you need them. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book and thought the author did a great job of weaving so much in. I would check it out! I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

CW include racist language and microagressions, police violence, attempted suicide, depictions of bipolar, borderline emotional child abuse
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I tried really hard to get into this book, but ended up putting it aside and not finishing it. As happens sometimes, this book just wasn't for me despite how excited I initially was about getting the chance to read it.
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