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Book Review: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau is a coming of age novel taking place in Baltimore, Maryland. During the 1970's, fourteen year old Mary Jane is caught in the middle of her family's conservative ideals and the progressive ideals of the Cone family where she is a summer nanny. Mary Jane is a sheltered teen who enjoys cooking with her mother, listening to Broadway Show Tunes, and singing in the church choir. On the first day of work, she is shocked at the mess in the Cone's home and introduces them to home cooked meals and keeping the house clean. In return, Mary Jane gets a front row seat to sex, drugs, and rock & roll. This novel was the selected for the book club I belong to. Again, this is a novel that I likely wouldn't have chosen to read on my own, but I was glad I did. Mary Jane is the first novel I've read by Jessica Anya Blau, and I was impressed with her storytelling.  Touching on race, class, and stereotypes, along with drugs and infidelity, it reminded

Book Review: The Train by Diane Hoh

book review the train

The Train by Diane Hoh opens with Hannah, Kerry, Mack, and Lewis, along with other students from Parker High School, boarding a train in Chicago for a cross country school trip to San Francisco. Once on the train, they find out a deceased student from their school was being transported back to his parents, and the friends start admitting to how horribly they had treated Frog before he died. Then, horrible things started happening to them on the train, and it seems like Frog is out for revenge.

Rereading this book as an adult and having read most of Agatha Christie's books, The Train loosely reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express but in reverse. This book also has a very Stephen King vibe to it but is kid friendly. With that being said, I still am a bit jumpy from reading it as an adult.

This is a book that I originally read when I was either a tween or a teen. Usually when I reread books from my childhood, I generally remember what happens as I work my way through the book. However, I didn't recall most what happened in The Train except one or two small things, so it was like reading it for the first time again. One of the things I remembered was the small typo in the way a sentence was worded. You'll have to find it for yourself though.

What I loved about this book is that it deals with something that still goes on in schools today . . . bullying. Hopefully, if a kid reads this book today, it will resonate with them about the consequences of bullying can have. Once all the main characters revealed the nasty things they had done to Frog, it made me incredibly sad for this fictional character and really impacted me even as an adult. I know this is only a book of fiction, but people in real life can be so cruel and don't realize what their actions can do to people.

I gave The Train by Diane Hoh five out of five stars because of how well written it is and has stood the test of time. If you liked this book, I recommend April Fools by Richie Tankersly Cusick.


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