Normally at this time of year, I’d be just coming back from a vacation but that is obviously not happening in 2020. At work, the first two weeks of July are usually devoted to staff training and planning for the next program year, before the participants come back for a summer camp-type program. Ironically, I tend to find those staff-only weeks more stressful than actually working with our participants so I like to take my vacation time just after that period. Plus, we usually have very few participants toward the beginning of the summer since many of them go to overnight camps, so it makes a convenient time to get away. Most of the time, I take the train to other cities but occasionally I’ll fly somewhere further away. I have a ton of anxiety about flying, especially after the year that several planes malfunctioned and went down not too long ago. I found it interesting to see this week’s prompt had to do with books involving air and rail transport, since it seemed a bit random at first, but I think it actually is good fit for the “summer vacation” period.
1) Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This iconic book was the first thing that immediately jumped to mind when I thought of books that involved trains or planes. I read this one back in 2017, and it was the second Agatha Christie book that I had ever read, after absolutely loving And Then There Were None. That one is still my favourite, but I really enjoyed this one too. This book features Detective Hercule Poirot, who is investigating the case of a passenger on the Orient Express train who was murdered while the train got stuck during a snowstorm. It’s been so long since I read this one that I really don’t remember much detail about it by now, but I remember thinking that it had an interesting cast of characters, and I had no idea what the final twist would be! I thought the investigations and interviews with the suspects were very well-done, and left me just as confused as the investigators about what had happened. I love these kind of locked-door mysteries where everything takes place in one confined setting, and this was such an interesting one.
2) This Train is Being Held by Ismee Amiel Williams
I have not read this one yet, but I’m hoping to pick it up before the end of the year! This book is about a private school student named Isabelle who meets Alex on the train downtown. Over the course of several encounters over the next three years, the two of them get to know each other, including the issues each of them are having with their parents. Isabelle and Alex are from different economic classes, and different cultural backgrounds, and from what I have heard about it, the book tackles a variety of topics including mental illness, racism/prejudice, privilege and more. I’m intrigued to pick this one up because it seems like such a slow-burn romance, which is quite rare in YA, and I’m very intrigued to see a YA romance that stretches over such a long period. I actually had this book on my list to read last year for my reading challenge, only to learn that it had been pushed back to February 2020. I’m hoping to be able to get a copy soon so I can finally read it.
3) The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton
I first heard of this book a few years ago when it came up as a recommendation in my local newspaper’s book section. It is about a woman named Juliette who is obsessed with her ex-boyfriend Nate, and is hoping to win him back. Juliette decides to become a flight attendant for his airline so she can keep watch over him, and ensure that no one else gets in her way. I’m pretty sure that I initially thought that this book primarily took place on the plane, but I’m not actually sure if that’s the case. Given that Nate is a pilot and Juliette becomes a flight attendant, I would assume that at least some of the book revolves around planes or the airport at least. I’ve also seen comparisons of this one to You by Caroline Kepnes, which I really enjoyed. As creepy as You was, I can only imagine how much worse it would be if they characters were stuck together on a flight, if that’s how the story plays out. This is another book that I’ve been meaning to try for way too long, and I’ll have to make sure to actually pick it up at some point.
4) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
It took me an embarrassingly long time to think of this book, even though it is such a clear fit for this week’s theme. I know there has been a lot of mixed reviews for this one, but I absolutely loved it! It is about a woman named Rachel who takes the same commuter train to work every day, and she begins to feel attached to a couple she sees through the window each day. She names them Jess and Jason, and imagines that they have the perfect life until one day, when she sees something shocking happen in the brief moments before her train moves on. When “Jess” goes missing shortly afterwards, Rachel takes it upon herself to investigate and find out what really happened to her. I read this one right at the height of its hype when it came out 5 years ago, and although I don’t remember too much of it by now, I remember that I devoured it very quickly! I think it was one of a few books I read that year that really got me hooked on reading thrillers.
5) The Never War by D.J. MacHale
This might be a bit of a random choice, but I specifically wanted to mention one more book that involved planes, and this is one that I remembered that I had read. This book is the third in the Pendragon series, about a boy named Bobby who is a Traveler, responsible for visiting different worlds during their “Turning Point” and helping to push things in the right direction. In this book, Bobby and some of his friends travel back in time to New York in 1937, where they discover that the infamous Hindenburg disaster is the turning point that they are supposed to deal with, forcing them to make the difficult decision of whether to stop the crash or allow history to play out to prevent further disaster in the future. In general, the Pendragon series is an incredibly underrated YA fantasy series, and I’m so glad my school librarian recommended it to me. It came out around the same time as Harry Potter really became popular here, so it got lost in the shuffle a bit. I especially enjoyed this one, even though I really have no interest in planes and knew nothing about the Hindenburg before going into, and I think the whole series is worth picking up.