Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

This Train Is Being Held

Rate this book
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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published February 11, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ismée Amiel Williams

3 books53 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
423 (25%)
4 stars
691 (41%)
3 stars
400 (24%)
2 stars
107 (6%)
1 star
25 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 360 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,122 reviews39.1k followers
June 20, 2020
This is stunning, heart-breaking, I cannot hold back my tears! Oh, no! My cries are literally ugly!

This is more heart-felting, emotional, tear-jerker book than I expected represents Latino culture and heavy mental illness issues ( suicide, bipolar, depression etc.) at the same time.

I’m not a big fan of slow-burn romances and when I read the blurb that Alex and Isabelle’s journey to form a relationship takes 3 years, I got a little worried. But as soon as I started to read, I relieved: this is not a book consisted of too many repeating, wordy descriptions and nonsense dialogues. It’s well rounded, -perfectly developed realistic fiction.

Two young adults from different classes, cultural backgrounds meet at the train. Slowly they start to learn more about each other. Isabelle, half Cuban privileged girl, deals with her depressed mother who has prejudice against Latino man. Isabelle also deals with her brother Merritt (interestingly at some parts I found him more genuine and more likeable character than heroine), chasing her dream to be a dancer.

Our hero Alex Rosario is Dominican American, dealing with his over controlling father who forces him to play sports but Alex wants to go to the college to become a poet.

Alex’s story and his family interaction parts were poignant, heartwarming. And Isabelle’s family part was more dramatic because of mother and brother’s mental health issues.

Overall I enjoyed the author’s genuine, objective writing and author’s juggling too many issues at the same time and mixing in theme proportionally to create a memorable story.

At some parts I found heroine a little dull, ordinary and hard to relate with. But this book is still promising, heart wrenching and impeccably developed page-turner. I wanted to read more works of the author ASAP in near future.

Special thanks to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids/Amulet Books to share this incredible ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review.

Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,472 reviews19.2k followers
February 12, 2020
3.5 rounded up to a 4. 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.

TW: racism, police violence
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,584 followers
May 23, 2020

Many thanks to Amulet for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
”Falling in love, it is easy. Fighting for it, that is hard.”

Gosh, you guys… there was just so much to love about this book!! Even though the romance was probably a 3.5 stars on its own, the book as a whole gets a 4 star rating because of the friendship and, best of all, latinx heritage and culture.

So, what’s this book about?
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.

As you could tell by the phrase “over the next three years”, this is not a very insta-lovey novel. That said, it was anything but slow and even though three years sounds like a long, long time, it’s not. Trust me; this book will fly by. So much so that I didn’t even realize it was three years because it was so enjoyable and perfectly paced. And also because I wasn’t paying attention to the dates.

Isa(belle) Warren - Isa is the definition of a privileged white girl.

Fortunately, she is pretty aware and grateful of her privilege and is almost never snooty or entitled about it. Isa is a young adult who loves to dance and hang out with her friend, Chrisy. I don’t really have anything else to say about Isa soooo… GIF:

Alex Rosario - I much prefer Alex to Isa. Mainly because:

(P.S. don’t google “gay as f*ck gifs” unless you want to be treated to porn. Learned that the hard way.)
But I also loved him because he was Latino! I love me some Latino rep because, believe it or not, I am Latino. Half lation. So, I guess I’m biracial. Anyway. I also want to note that Alex’s hand were surprisingly sexy. Don’t believe me? HERE’S A QUOTE TO JUSTIFY MY ARGUMENT:
”I suck in a breath. His skin is warm under the cool gel. Very warm. The deep curve of his hand is slick. It’s so large both my fists could fit inside it. He has calluses at the base of his thumb and below his ring finger. I hover over them, tracing their shape. I slip outside of his hand and his broad knuckles flex, almost involuntarily. I circle up to his wrist, to the pound of his pulse. It matches the thrumming in my ears.”

If that’s not foreplay, I don’t know what is.

Merrit - Merrit is Isa’s brother and I was definitely crushing on him. I would totally be into him if he existed in real life. I also appreciated the mental illness rep (more on that in a bit.)

I want to briefly focus on the Latino rep. Both Isa (I think) and Alex have latino heritage but it is Alex’s Dominican American family that the novel focuses on. It was super cool to see them speaking occasional Spanish, even though I couldn’t understand it. I don’t speak a lick of Spanish.

I also loved the general culture and feel of Alex’s home because it reminded me of the (sometimes awkward) family lunches we have on my dad’s side. Oh, another thing. Alex called his dad “Papi” which is something I actually do but when talking about him to really anyone, I just say my dad because it’s easier than explaining “Papi”. Also, I’m lazy.

To end, I want to discuss the mental illness representation which was just as important and meaningful as the Latino rep. Both Merrit and his mother struggle with bipolar disorder and Merrit deals with depression and, towards the end of the book, . I really appreciated this raw, accurate and emotional display of what it is like to deal with mental illness and to know someone who deals with it.

Overall, this book was romantic, sure, but it went so much deeper than that. From Latino culture and heritage to bipolar disorder, This Train Is Being Held covers many important topics in a raw, honest, and emotional way that will have every reader switching back and forth from laughter to tears.

Bottom Line:
4.5 Stars
Age Rating: [ PG-13 ]
Content Screening (Spoilers) - Educational Value (4/5) - [Latino culture and heritage, theatre, bipolar disorder and how to deal/cope with it] ~ Positive Messages (4/5) - [Endurance and strength, friendships, being your own person] ~ Violence (3/5) - [In the climax, a character is threatened with a knife and multiple people fall onto train tracks. Many characters are injured but no one dies.] ~ Sex (3/5) - [Kissing, removal of clothing but no on page sex.] ~ Language (1/5) - [Brief and mild language] ~ Drinking/Drugs (4/5) - [Character purposely overdoses on medications]
Trigger and Content Warnings - Overdosing on drugs, Suicide Attempt, Suicidal Ideations, Depression, Bipolar disorder, Racism (always in a negative light), Violence, Loss & Harm to a loved one
Cover: 4/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 4/5
Publication Date: February 11th, 2020
Publisher: Amulet (Abrams)
Genre: Romance/Contemporary


Super cute and fun but with a perfect amount of heavy and important topics as well. Review to come!


latino rep!!!

| Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,254 reviews2,940 followers
January 22, 2020
This turned out to be an okay read, but I was hoping for more. There were elements of the story I liked and others I didn't. I think the the biggest problem for me was I wasn't all that interested in Alex although I'm not quite sure why that was the case. He just kinda fell flat and I actually would have preferred if the story would have followed Isa the entire time instead of alternating between her and Alex. I was way more invested in her family life rather than her romantic life.

High school students Isabelle Warren and Alex Rosario first meet while riding on the subway train. And despite the fact they live in NYC with a population of I don't know how many millions of people, they keep running into one another on the same train. What are the odds? (actually pretty good when you are reading a romance) Isa is half Cuban and has dreams of becoming a dancer. She comes from a wealthy family, but her home life isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Dominican-American Alex isn't living a life of privilege like Isa. His father is controlling and wants Alex to excel in sports, however Alex wants to be a poet.

So this is one of those slow burn romances that takes place over the course of a couple years. While I thought both Isa and Alex were likable people, I was pretty indifferent about the romantic aspects of their relationship. For me this worked as a better straight up fiction story rather than a romance. I give the author credit for giving the story some substance instead of just churning out a fluffy teen romance. Both characters had interesting backstories, but I do wish I would have clicked better with Alex. In no way am I saying he was a poorly written character, it's more of a case of as a reader you aren't always going to connect with every character in a book. Had I cared more about him, this probably would have been a much better read for me.

I appreciate the author's attempt to explore serious subjects in this young adult romance. If that is the type of thing that interests you and/or you like stories with diverse characters, you might want to check this one out.

I won a free copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

Profile Image for a.
1,157 reviews
February 18, 2020
4.5 stars

Wow...I knew that I was going to love this book but I never expected it to be my first 5 star read of the year and an instant favorite for 2020!

When I heard about this book and heard it was about two latinx teenagers falling in love; one who is Dominican and one who is half-Cuban, I knewthat I had to read it. It means so much to me whenever I read a book that has POC characters but learning that Alex was Dominican and reading this book and seeing Ismée Williams get the culture so right...it brought tears to my eyes so many times while reading. There is so much about this book that was amazing, I think I hugged this book to my chest no less than 5 times while reading it. I just love it so much. For the characters, for the culture, for the message and important topics that are talked about in this book and are done so well. You can tell this author really put her heart and soul into this book and I felt like I was reading a book written just for me.

When Alex talked about Dominican culture and about how he gets treated for being darker skinned, that whole conversation about that is so, so important. Because it's real and true. It's horrible that kids are automatically put into a box based on a person's racist and ignorant perceptions of people based on their skin color or the way they look. I also really liked how much of the culture and language was in this book and the conversation on the relationship between Alex and his dad.

For Isa, since she is biracial and white-passing people don't think she's Cuban and often treat her like she's a rich white girl. She has privilege in a way that Alex never will. I liked that we got to talk about how just because you are white-passing doesn't mean you are any less Cuban. There's also a lot going on for Isa in her family, what with her mom and brother who are both bipolar and her dad who is struggling at work and Isa doesn't know how much longer she can pretend that everything is fine when it's so clearly not.

I feel like I could go on and on about how much I loved this book but I'm going to stop now because I want to go back and hold this book a little longer and reread some of my favorite parts. I cannot recommend this book enough!!
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews344 followers
February 27, 2020
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Vinny MS

Featuring an unexpected subway encounter, Ismée Williams’ newest contemporary, This Train Is Being Held, is going to make you swoon over the slow-burn romance between Isabelle Warren, a girl who does her dance routines in secret due to a strict mother, and Alex Rosario, a boy who plays baseball in pressure in attempt to make his father proud. Heavily centered around Spanish culture and heritage in the current timeline, Isa and Alex’s journey in this book was absolutely eye-opening, not just in regards to their romance, but also to their family, friends, and surroundings.

Isabelle Warren is a half-Cuban high-schooler and passionate dancer in secret. She’s your typical privileged girl, though I’d say that she’s more than aware of her privilege and family’s wealth, which makes her character more bearable to follow. With a mother suffering from unstable emotions and a brother who suffered from depression, you soon realise that she doesn’t have it all. Enter Alex Rosario, a Dominican-American high schooler and forced-baseball player. Living with a controlling father who expects his son to be all athletic, the idea of Alex becoming a poet might as well become a death-sentence for him.

Isa and Alex’s first encounter may or may not be the most swoon-worthy material in this story. As a matter of subjectivity, I’d personally consider it as realistic, which makes the whole narrative feel way more real and believable. The two didn’t immediately get love-struck with one another, yet the attraction was clearly showing on this first meeting. Aside from the romance, which was slow yet delightful to follow, what piqued my interest the most about this story is the richness of the Latino culture and representation. It accentuated many important and sensitive topics as well from parental pressure for their kids, to heavy mental disorders and racism.

Told in an alternate point-of-view, Isa and Alex’s perspective was completely contrast yet beautifully complement each other. With two main leads who come from different backgrounds and social classes, you may want to hold your tongue before judging this book as your typical cheesy YA novel because This Train Is Being Held is far from that. Williams eloquently incorporated this classic trope into something that’s way more heartfelt, meaningful, and raw.

As I previously mentioned, I cherished the rich representations included in Williams’ newest book. Although one thing quickly becomes a challenge for me, which is the heavy-use of Spanish in this story. While I enjoyed the incorporation of Spanish in both dialogues and internal monologues of the characters, I was hoping there’d be a guide for non-Spanish speakers such as myself.

In conclusion, This Train Is Being Held is an evocative and heartfelt slow-paced realistic fiction. It’s the perfect companion to bring on your next train ride while enjoying the after-work hours.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,038 reviews805 followers
December 26, 2019
On my blog.

Rep: half Cuban mc, Dominican American mc, side characters with bipolar disorder

CWs: suicidal ideation, suicide attempt (off page, side char), racism

Galley provided by publisher

Quite frankly, this book bored me to near death. From about a fifth through, I had to almost force myself to read it, I was that tired. I mean, ultimately, it’s not a bad book, I just have very low tolerance for straight YA contemporary and this one definitely fell below that.

This Train is Being Held is about two characters I can’t even remember the names of (Isabelle and Alex, thanks synopsis) who meet, and fall in love, on the metro. Now, that actually did hook me, so I really thought I might like this book. Unfortunately, it’s so fraught with miscommunication (or straight up non-communication) and just general treating people kind of awfully, that I couldn’t stand it.

The first time Alex and Isabelle meet, Alex defends her from some creep leering at her in her dancewear. To which Isabelle comments it’s probably her fault because of what she’s wearing. And to which my immediate reaction was, it’s some choice to have your female character express internalised misogyny so the male character can correct/comfort her and thus establish himself as a Good Feminist Guy. And by “some choice” I mean it’s not a choice I appreciate.

But, I thought, maybe it will improve.

More fool me.

Next, the second time Alex and Isabelle meet, Isabelle’s friend has just dared her to go up to a stranger on the train and kiss them. Luckily (of a sort), Alex is on the train, so Isabelle goes up to him. Having spoken with him a grand total of one (1) time. Which borders sexual harrassment, surely? Crude example, but swap the genders around, have Alex go up to Isabelle and it’s suddenly more obviously unacceptable (ask me about the reverse sexual double standard, I covered that in my research project…). And so now I’m supposed to actually root for Isabelle, somehow. Okay, so she does apologise later on, but – could just be me – an apology after the fact does not nearly make up for doing it.

And then we skim along a bit while they’re actually together, and then, woe of woes, they break up due to miscommunication. Which would be fine in itself only Alex then has to go be an absolute dickhead, kiss another girl immediately (and start dating her), despite knowing that he is still in love with Isabelle, and that Kiara, this other girl, is distinctly in love with him. So it just ends up him treating her like crap. And here I am, unable to like either Alex or Isabelle. (Also, of note, he never really apologises to Kiara for this.)

But I am not done yet! Then there’s the ending which is, quite frankly, chaos. Throughout the book there’s hints at something more coming, from references to Danny joining a gang and the racism that Alex faces. And that comes to a head at the end. Only, it feels too late on to give it the weight both topics really deserve. They’re attacked by members of another gang, Alex is a victim of police brutality, but it’s all almost shrugged off at the end. Danny gets out, Alex mentions going to therapy. Okay we’re done. Combined with the fact that this book is already trying to deal with the topic of mental illness, just leaves these two other topics – both of which deserve to be dealt with way more thoroughly than it felt they were – sort of like afterthoughts in the narrative. The police brutality in particular.

One final point. I’m not sure what the rep in this is like (particularly the Dominican rep and the bipolar rep). I don’t know enough myself and I haven’t found any reviews yet, but you know when you get a slight feeling about it? Well yeah.

In the end, then, not only was I disappointed, but apparently I was also annoyed enough to write this long a review. Oops.
Profile Image for Jenny Jo Weir.
1,545 reviews77 followers
June 26, 2020
Now this is how you do YA. This story was beautiful, from start to finish. Had it not have been for Isabelle's secretiveness, and her whole shadiness, I'd have given this one five stars. I wish she'd have opened up and been honest. I don't like when everything falls apart simply because of the characters refusal to speak. Other than that, I loved every second of this one, including the struggles and turmoil Alex had to endure and his entire journey. This one was lovely indeed.
Profile Image for Amy Bruestle.
273 reviews204 followers
August 15, 2020
I won this book through a giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Okay... I kept going back and forth between 3 stars and 4 stars, but decided on 3 in the end. Although the book was cute, and definitely had some great parts to it, it also had some issues. First, it took FOREVER for anything interesting to happen. The best part of the book, and the most action all happened in the last 50 pages! I’m glad i made it that far, because i did really enjoy those parts, but I’m not going to lie, I considered dropping it a few times before then.
Profile Image for Chapters And Sparkles.
62 reviews49 followers
February 24, 2020

First of all, I want to thank to the publishing house Abrams & Chronicle Books for giving me a free ARC in exchange for an honest review!

First of all, I liked the romance between Alex and Isabelle and it was very emotional to read about it. The relationship between these two people is so beautiful and unique. Just reading the author’s description of it, makes me want to cry. Also, I like how the author, Ismee, tells the story in two ways. First of all, we have this cute, slow-burning romance between these two people. On the other hand, we have two emotional family stories. Even though I enjoyed the cute one, I was really interested in their families and their lives.

Isabelle chases her dreams. She wants to be a famous dancer someday and, honestly, she could be anything she wants. Her family is wealthy, but her mother has strict rules. I found very awkward the relationship between Isa and her mother, and it kind of bothered me. There are some situations when I couldn’t undrstand Isa’s mother. It’s like she is from another planet and I couldn’t help but think that she felt lost.

Moreover, Alex chases his dreams, too. He wants to be a successful poet, but his father has different plan for him. He wants him to be a sport star. This relationship between Ale and his father is even more annoying than the previous one. I was so angry about the fact how Alex’s father controlled his life. I wouldn’t say that Alex is a flat character, but there is something undefined about him. I do like more Isabelle in all this story and I see Alex as Isa’s lost part. She needed him in her life to complete her as a person.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading this book, and I the author’s attempt to talk about certain issues is clearly seen and it’s a really good thing. I recommend this book to the people who like slow-burning romances.
Profile Image for Ellie.
151 reviews13 followers
July 23, 2020
I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!! Alex was just everythingggggg, me encanto ❤️ I LOVED his relationship with his mom and how sweet he was 😭 (All the bachata and merengue references were EVERYTHING)

This book wasn’t perfect but regardless I loved it and I’m so happy it exists. At first it was hard to keep track of the story because there’s time jumps but overall I can’t get over how beautiful this book was. (It’s mostly a love story but there’s also sooo many other important topics discussed)
Profile Image for kate.
1,105 reviews921 followers
June 1, 2020
A truly delightful and surprising read.

The romance was EVERYTHING. It was tender and warm and raw and everything you could possibly want in a YA romance. It was somehow both an 'instalove' story and a slow burn romance and I loved it so, so much. I was 100% all in and onboard with it from the get go and coming from someone who pretty much never gets on with 'instalove' style romances, that's saying a lot.

The plot itself was gently paced and I was hooked from the first page until the last. It was intense and heartbreaking but wonderfully explored parental pressures, mental illness, Latinx culture, prejudice and balancing your professional aspirations with relationships.

Ismée Amiel Williams' writing style was comfortable to read whilst packing a major punch. The vulnerability she managed to portray in both Alex and Isabelle was superb. I absolutely loved the narrative surrounding the trains and the inclusion of Isa's passion for ballet and Alex's love for poetry were such brilliant additions to the plot and their characters. I adored the cast of characters and enjoyed both Alex and Isabelle's POV's equally, which I've found to be a rarity in books with dual perspective.

Overall, this was a tender yet heart wrenching read and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

The audiobook narrators were also a 10/10!

TW: racism, police brutality
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,962 reviews3,276 followers
February 7, 2020
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
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,258 reviews277 followers
October 17, 2021
One day I am going to find a story about characters who meet repeatedly on a train/bus/coach that I actually enjoy, and then my life will be complete. While this story had the elements I was looking for, I didn't root for Alex and Isa as a couple, and that's a major issue.

I didn't like Isa as a person, her choices to not tell Alex anything about her family life made sense at first, but not when they became a couple. When she had to cancel on Alex suddenly, she didn't tell him what was going on, ignoring his desperate texts, then shrugged off his concerns and essentially, dumped him. It came across as very toxic.

Alex's struggles with his identity and the way he was perceived was more interesting, once I stopped stressed about trying to perfectly translate the chunks of Spanish, I found I could understand what was being said just fine.

Overall, love the concept, loved Alex and his poetry, and I felt that the setting was really well written but my dislike for Isa and their relationship overshadowed it. This was wonderfully, unapologetically diverse though so definitely check it out for that.
Profile Image for Ta || bookishbluehead.
329 reviews21 followers
August 16, 2022
The concept was great and sounded like it could be a fluffy rom-com, but it was much more serious than I thought it would be.

This book tackles many important subjects like racism, police brutality, gang violence, depression, other mental health concerns and dysfunctional families. And there are even more. In my opinion these all deserve more attention than they could be given in a 350 page book.

I didn’t enjoy the romance, it felt like insta-love and honestly for the first part of the book I was just bored. I also didn’t like the characters that much, especially Isabelle. I hated that scene when Isabelle's friend dares her to kiss a stranger on the train and, because she talked one time to Alex (of whom she doesn’t know the name and who she calls Chuck because of his shoes, how clever!), she kisses him. Sorry, but that wasn’t right and yes, she apologizes later but honestly, was that necessary?
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,369 reviews233 followers
January 27, 2020
While rushing to ballet audition, a kind stranger, Alex, held the train door for Isa. Over the next few months, they continued to cross paths on this train line, which led to friendship and more.

• Pro: The premise was fantastic! In a city of more than 8.6 million, these two kept bumping into each other. The universe was definitely trying to tell them something! I found it all terribly romantic, and also, so New York.

• Pro: The romance developed over quite a long period of time. There were gaps between each train encounter, and I liked having that time to get to know Alex and Isa separately before getting to know them as a couple.

• Pro/Con: My heart went out to Isa. She was dealing with a LOT of upheaval in her life, but I HATED the way she dealt with it, and I also HATED the way it affected Alex. Those were a few dark chapters for me, but...

• Pro: I adored Alex. He made a few choices I was not super happy about, however I was such a fan of him as friend, a big brother, and a son. He was often quite sweet, and there were many times I swooned as he interacted with Isa. I loved that he was a jock and a poet, and I was really proud of some of the big decisions he made during this story.

• Pro: I WAS a fan of this romance. Despite Alex and Isa being from "two different New Yorks", they were beautiful together.

• Pro: Because I spent such a long period of time with this couple, their family, and their friends, I really grew to care about them all. The stupendous ending Williams wrote set my mind at ease about their futures, and I was happy she wrapped up so many of the characters' storylines.

Overall: An emotional and heartfelt train ride, which I really enjoyed.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,484 reviews187 followers
April 24, 2020
3.5 Stars


Another pleasant surprise with a wonderfully diverse cast. This is definitely a romance but not a cute and fluffy one. It’s about two people from different worlds who meet on a train and feel drawn to each other. As the relationship progresses they see that there can be wonderful moments and challenging ones for people from both sides of the ‘tracks’. The heavier themes were dealt with in a way that didn’t detract from the fact that this is primarily a love story, but neither was it a flippant look at issues such as parental expectations, racism, and stereotyping. They were blended together and struck a harmonious balance. There were a few tense moments in the story that had me internally begging the author to make things go the way I saw them in my head. I was unaware how invested I was in the relationship between Isa and Alex until I welled up at a particular point. No actual crying, however welling up in a book is huge for me on the emotional scale. An enjoyable book.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
627 reviews1,687 followers
October 26, 2020
This book was not at all what I expected - it was even better. This is a good example of a story that takes the insta-love trope, turns it around, and creates a stunning slow-burn romance interconnected with how life can get complicated and get in the way.

- Follows Isa, a white-passing biracial Cuban-American teen, and Alex, a brown Dominican-American teen, and how they meet on the train over the course of three years.
- Like I said, I loved that this story takes an insta-love moment - Alex and Isa's attraction is instant and electrifying - but turns it into a slow-burn and thoughtful romance.
- But this book isn't a fluffy romance either - it's a balance of sweet and bitter sweet. It's also a story about how life can get complicated - because of family, dreams, aspirations, and mental illness - and how things can get in the way of the things that you know are meant to be.
- Both Isa and Alex were wonderful protagonists, and I enjoyed their character arcs - especially their moments of vulnerability and the intimacy between the two of them.
- I really liked how this story also explores privilege - what it's like being in a romantic relationship with someone who has clearly more privileged than you, how colourism shapes the way Alex navigates the world, and how being white-passing and white privilege shapes how Isa navigates the world.

Trigger/content warning: loss of loved one, drug overdose, suicide attempt (not described; off-page), depression, bipolar disorder, racism (challenged, but instances depicted), mild physical violence, gangs.
Profile Image for Rahma.
266 reviews77 followers
June 6, 2020

This one was so boring I almost DNF’d it, then decided to continue but had to listen to the audiobook on thrice the speed just to get it over with, which I never do.
Not to mention both the main characters were really annoying. The romance was so rushed; I particularly hated the way it started.
I’m really disappointed because this was an anticipated read for me.
Profile Image for Yna from Books and Boybands.
747 reviews347 followers
December 26, 2020
"I love my family. I love the island they came from. I don’t love that I tense up every time a cop passes. I don’t love that strangers look at me like I’m someone who’s going to hurt them instead of help. Do I wish I were different? Yeah, sometimes I do. And I hate myself for it. But that wasn’t why I was with Isa. It’s maybe why I’m not with her, though."
Profile Image for Stacey-Lea.
178 reviews18 followers
May 13, 2020
While it did take me a little time to get into this story, as the pacing is very spaced out spanning across three years with only snippets of time told, by the end I absolutely adored it.

Alex and Isa reminded me of what it was like to be a teen falling for someone for a single train ride, but take that further in asking what you would do if you kept seeing that person? If you felt enigmatically drawn to them each time?

A very grounded contempoary with a few trigger warnings of suicide, depression, bipolar rep, and police brutality.
Profile Image for Eeva.
793 reviews40 followers
April 30, 2020
This book had such a cool premise, but it was insanely boring. Even the climax scene was like meh. After that everything felt rushed.
Profile Image for Julia.
73 reviews
August 5, 2021
A collection of cliches loosely bound by the facsimile of a plot.
Profile Image for Merb.
488 reviews35 followers
March 10, 2020
In this young adult contemporary, we follow teenagers Alex and Isa. Alex wants to be a poet, but his father wants him to be a pro baseball player. Isa wants to be a pro ballet dancer, but her mother wants her to do something less feminine. The two meet on a train and instantly feel an attraction. We follow their romance and lives over the next three years as things fall apart, but also fall into place.

This was an ordinary, run of the mill romance. Alex and Isa had a surprisingly realistic relationship, however the story relied heavily on the two keeping aspects of their lives a secret, which is never really very realistic. I was rooting for them to get together and then stay together, but apart from that the rest of the story was pretty average. Due to this story being snapshots over three years, it was hard to get invested or form an attachment to things as they passed by so quickly, and there was often no pay off. The ending also did not tie up some things that were important at the start but seemed to have been forgotten about towards the end. This book tackles racism towards Latino young men and the negative stigma attached to them, as well as mental health and the negative ramification it can have upon relationships. So if you enjoy exploring such topics this book dives a little into that. Overall I am happy I read This Train is Being Held and would pick up more from this author.
Profile Image for Ann.
250 reviews5 followers
March 5, 2022
A decent romance, takes place mostly on subway cars in NYC. The insta-love thing at the beginning was a hurdle to get over. And then all the secrets that everyone kept, that seemed a little too much to get over too. I was mostly worried for little brother Robi -- the observant, sensitive one who just wants attention and gets nothing from papi.

Their worlds collided in the big climax, and the way things got tied up in a neat bow in the denoument seemed a little far-fetched.
Profile Image for Preye.
212 reviews19 followers
July 27, 2022
The author sidestepped many of the issues that she could have easily hammered into, but, on second thought, I will always prefer vague references to a contentious issue to an author shooting out half-baked uninformed “facts.”

Links:  Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Reedsy
Profile Image for Lee.
942 reviews33 followers
March 26, 2020
TW: drug overdose, suicide attempt/ideas, depression, bipolar, racism, violence

I had really hoped for more from this story, but it didn't end up being there for me and I haven't been able to pin down why yet.

Isabelle, Isa, meets Alex on the train one day. He captures her attention and she captures his. As they continue to run into each other on the subway, they get to know each other a little more.

I really enjoyed moments of this book. Isa and Alex had a number of cute moments together. Plus, the idea of fate continually bringing them together was a fun different break from the types of romances I have read lately.

The main struggle I had with this is that I feel like a lot of the drama in their romance all bounced around a lack of communication. Now, on one had I get it. There was a lot going on that is hard to share, but still. Also, this was told from Isa and Alex's POV and that didn't really work for me here.

But, I did love seeing mental illness representation. This book hit harder than I was expecting, but I do feel like the mental illness was down really well. It showed the struggles and that just because you are well at some point doesn't mean you always will be. It was hard, but I loved seeing that in there and really hope it sheds some light on that topic more.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 360 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.