Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published January 13, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Buy this book from Amazon

I read this as an ebook on my Kindle Paperwhite.

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

Despite having only been published in January of this year, the success of the book has already led DreamWorks studios to snag the movie rights.  However, this isn’t a guarantee that a movie will actually hit the big screen; just that the first steps have been taken.

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” pg. 31

When The Girl on the Train was released, many people called it this year’s Gone Girl.  And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that that statement alone intrigued me.  With the hype Gone Girl received not only in print but in the theaters, it was a bold statement to say Paula Hawkins’ debut murder mystery novel is on Gone Girl‘s level.

Without knowing a single thing about the plot, readers open the book with expectations entirely contingent upon a whole other novel by a completely different author.  But I won’t go on an endless rant about the media and advertising because these types of comparisons are unavoidable.  So I’ll just say, for me, no, The Girl on the Train was not like Gone Girl but that wasn’t the reason why I didn’t like this book.

technically, 1.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
I’ll start this out by saying that I really wanted to like this book.  I tried.  But first, let me get into why I even decided to read The Girl on the Train at all.

A close friend of mine (Hi, Nik!) loves the Mystery/Thriller genre.  As a Young Adult aficionado, I wanted to expand my book palette.  So we formed a book club.  Every month, we’d choose a book that suited her literature likes and then we’d discuss it over GChat during work hours.  For the month of February, we chose The Girl on the Train not only because it was highly talked about (and it was mentioned on an issue of theSkimm!), but also because I wanted to have an opinion about this book in the midst of the hype.  Not a year after its publication.  Not when the movie is released and it becomes a blockbuster.  Right in the thick of things.

So those are my disclaimers.  1) Mystery/Thriller is not my go-to genre.  2) A major motivator in reading this book was because I wanted to be in “the cool club”.

With those reasons in mind, I tried to appreciate the book for what it was.  But I just couldn’t.  And this is why:

Genre aside, I’m a very subjective reader.  I like books in which I can relate to a character.  I like having a protagonist to root for.  Not to say that I only like books with perfect characters.  I guess a better way to say this is, I like books in which I can understand what motivates a character, what makes the protagonist (or antagonist) do the things he/she does.

So when I read a book in which every character is simply deplorable, I can’t make a connection to the novel on a personal level.  It just becomes words on a page; it might as well be a book on brain surgery because that’s how detached I am from the characters and the plot.  95% of The Girl on the Train is that for me.  I didn’t care that a person was missing.  Or that someone may be wrongfully convicted.  I simply didn’t care.  Because they were terrible people anyway.

And when the big reveal actually happens, it was just so…anti-climactic and lacked the depth this type of story deserves.  This is the best way to describe The Girl on the Train: LACKING.  It’s lacking compassion, lacking appeal, lacking explanation, lacking feeling.

Despite all the things I said up there, there is one chapter that I thought was brilliant.  I can’t mention specifics without giving any of the plot away but if you do read the book–Rachel’s chapter that starts on page 216.  What a great chapter.  The juxtaposition between the two events.  Wow.  That chapter alone made me decide to give the book a 1.5 as opposed to a 1.

I’m going to be honest, if a movie adaptation does happen, I would still watch it.  Because The Girl on the Train is the type of book that you can imagine to be better on screen.  And I know it’s a travesty for a book lover to say that (because the book is ALWAYS better than the movie), but some books have more of a visual appeal–you don’t have to invest as much time when watching a film.

I may be alone in my feelings towards this book and that’s totally fine.  I read it to form a personal opinion about the novel amidst all the current talk.  So if you’re the type of reader that wants to have a say on the current bestseller, then definitely read The Girl on the Train and refute my claims.  For those of you who could care less about what everyone else is talking about, you can read it after Jennifer Lawrence or Keira Knightley is casted as one of the leads and still be ahead of the game.

Bottomline?  There are some books that come highly recommended by everyone (and their mom, it seems) and you read it and you’re like, where has this book been all my life?  And then there are books that fall flat, that don’t live up to the hype.  For me, The Girl on the Train is the latter.

Stephen King tweeted about this book…and RAVED about it.  View the tweet here.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

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