Title: Subway Love
Author: Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Who doesn’t love a good time-crossing romance? I picked this up solely because it was new and I needed something to review. But after reading just a few pages, I realized that this would be one of those books that can’t help but leave a lasting impact – in a good way.
A brief summary from Goodreads:
If her parents had never divorced, Laura wouldn’t have to live in the shadow of Bruce, her mom’s unpredictable boyfriend. Her mom wouldn’t say things like “Be groovy,” and Laura wouldn’t panic every weekend on the way to Dad’s Manhattan apartment. But when Laura spots a boy on a facing platform, lifting a camera to his face, looking right at her, Laura feels anything but afraid, and she can’t forget him. Jonas, meanwhile, thinks nonstop about the pretty hippie girl he glimpsed on the platform — trying to comprehend how she vanished, but mostly wondering whether he will see her again in a city of millions — and whether if he searches, he would have any chance of finding her. In a lyrical meditation on love, Nora Raleigh Baskin explores the soul’s ability to connect, and heal, outside the bounds of time and reason.
In case it’s not clear from the summary – Jonas is from present-day. Laura is from 1973. But for some reason, their paths can cross – on a graffiti-covered NYC subway car. The author never comes out and says “TIME TRAVEL” or “SCIENCE” or “MAGIC” – the characters just slowly realize that they aren’t from the same time and place, and then accept it and work through it. It’s a bit like magic realism for that reason, and it really tickled my fancy.
Their relationship definitely starts out as love at first sight, but quickly grows into something more. Jonas and Laura have similar parental struggles and come to find that they can depend on each other for support. More than that, though, they have a connection – and Jonas even theorizes that they’re besherts, a mythical type of soulmate.
Max – a.k.a. Spike, a.k.a. Zippo, etc. – is a graffiti artist who tags the cars that Jonas can reach Laura through, and plays an important part in carrying the themes of the story as well. I loved Max’s inclusion in the plot and I think his addition filled out the love story. Art, freedom, and choices – these are all touched on both explicitly and implicitly throughout the text, which made it worthwhile to read. I do love a good romance but I love a meaningful romance even more.
I like to read through Goodreads reviews to get a feel for what other people thought, especially when the average star rating doesn’t match my own. Other readers seemed to complain that the ending of the book felt unfinished, with too many things left unexplained. In my own opinion, the poetic third-person narrative left just enough to the imagination. I feel like the readers can genuinely decide for themselves what they wanted to believe, especially in the last scene, which is a powerful opportunity.
The seamless crossing of timelines was brilliant. Jonas and Laura’s raw and constantly developing relationship was brilliant. The inclusion of thought-provoking themes and ideas was brilliant. I loved this book to pieces, and I’ll definitely be reading it again.
5 out of 5 stars.