The Girl on the Train


by Paula Hawkins


Riverhead Books


Reader Appeal: Adults and Mature Teens


Genre: Suspense


PopFam Rating: B+


Honestly, I’d never heard of The Girl on the Train until my husband shoved it in my face and said, ‘Here, you like thrillers. You’ll probably like this one too.” So when I went on a business trip shortly after, I took it along. While I was reading it on the plane, I noticed that the woman across the aisle from me was reading it too. Hmm. That made me even more curious to find out what this book was all about. Here’s the plot in a nutshell:


Rachel is “the girl on the train.” Every day she boards the same commuter train, morning and night, and rides past a neighborhood of normal suburban homes. And, since commuter train rides are inherently boring, she starts to make up stories about the people she sees living in these absolutely normal homes. For instance, she keeps an eye on the couple who always seem to eat breakfast together on their deck. She likes them, she even names them “Jess” and “Jason.” Then one day while riding the train, Rachel see something unexpected, something criminal. The police call her an “unreliable” witness, and so it’s up to Rachel to find out the truth.


After reading the book I was glad it was forced on me! I thought it was clever the way the author “mis-tells” the story through drunken memories, giving real clues and red herrings along the way. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the story kept surprising me. The way it was written made you think you could figure out the “whodunit,” but then I’d get another bit of information and realize I didn’t know the first thing about who did it after all.


In addition to the misdirection of the plot, I enjoyed the multi-viewpoint narration perspective. There were three main narrators—all women—and they all told different parts of the interweaving story. The main character, Rachel, was both deeply flawed (a struggling alcoholic) yet surprisingly appealing. It was interesting to picture this woman who rides the train to London every day and makes up stories about the people she sees out the window. When she witnessed something that didn’t fit with her own made-up stories, which turned into a real mystery of a woman who is missing, or maybe murdered. Definitely kept me turning pages!


One thing that made the book a challenge to read was the conflicting timelines for each character. Each of the three narrators—Rachel, Megan, and Anna—tells her part of the story in a different timeline, and though the date stamps that begin each chapter are helpful, sometimes I got confused about what was happening when.


Parents should know that The Girl on the Train is not graphically explicit, but all the main characters do live out some form of self-destructive habits, like extreme alcoholism or casual sex. The author doesn’t glorify these habits, but they are a key part of the plot and parents should be prepared to talk about these issues with teens or other family members who read the book.


Overall, I enjoyed The Girl on the Train and was glad my husband forced me to read it. Though not appropriate for everyone, people who like suspense and figuring out a good mystery will find this one a good travel companion.




Tags: Paula Hawkins,Thriller,Tess Gerritsen, New York Times Bestseller


Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

Reprint an Article - Free