Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Homophobia; racism
I went into this book with zero knowledge of the plot as silly old me didn’t read the synopsis. Color me surprised that there was time travel in this book! Once the suspension of disbelief kicked in, I liked this book despite some of its flaws.
Cynical 23-year-old August doesn’t believe in much – from psychics to friendships to love. But then she runs into this woman named Jane on her subway commute, and that all changes. Jane becomes the person August looks forward to seeing every day and makes her forget her worries and fears of what’s going on in her life. However, there’s just one problem. Jane’s displaced in time from the 1970s and cannot leave the Q train. Worse, Jane has no memory of who she was before she stepped foot on the Q train. An impossible mystery, August is determined to help Jane uncover her past and save the girl lost in time.
First off, I want to say that I listened to this as an audiobook. The narration from Natalie Naudus was fantastic. I don’t do audiobooks a lot as the narrators can make or break the story, but I felt Naudus brought so much emotion and life to the story. She did a fantastic job differentiating between the characters – each one had their own unique voice and personality that came through in the performance. I also loved how seamlessly she was able to switch between narration, dialogue and internal character thoughts – you could easily pick up on which type of text she was reading, which I loved! I listened to this audiobook in one day, and I credit Naudus’ narration as part of the reason I found this book so engaging!
In terms of the plot, I still don’t know how I feel about the time-traveling aspects. I think it makes sense for the story, but if you think about the specifics of the science behind it, your brain starts to hurt. I did think the time travel piece added an interesting layer to the plot, and it was a fascinating way to explore how LGBTQ+ culture has evolved from the 70s to today. The story kept me on my toes, though I did think it dragged a little in the middle. I felt the subplot involving August’s mom and uncle felt a bit superfluous and, at times, very odd (especially with how obsessed her mom was with detective work). It was almost too obvious that Augie’s disappearance would have a connection to Jane, and I’m still not sure what it added to the overall story. But that ending! I was SO ANXIOUS at the end of the book as I was very conflicted about what I wanted to happen. On the one hand, I wanted Jane to return to her time. On the other, I wanted Jane and August to get a happily ever after. How McQuiston wrapped everything up was fantastic and it truly tugged on my heartstrings in so many ways.
At the heart of this story is the romance between August and Jane. In many ways, it’s a story of falling in love for the first time, and it was truly beautiful. I loved how easily August and Jane connected and that their relationship was built on a solid friendship. The romance was a slow build but totally worth it. Because the story is from August’s point of view, we know how she’s thinking more than we know what Jane’s thinking. August develops a crush pretty early on, but it’s less clear how Jane feels. When they decided to kiss “for research” purposes, my heart dropped a bit for August as she wanted it to be so much more. And when Jane says, “you’re my best friend,” my heart ached for August. But, luckily Jane also wanted more – it just took some time for them to both be open and honest with their feelings.
Now, I don’t know what I expected in terms of sexy times, but I somehow found myself shocked they’d do it on the train. That should not be shocking since Jane physically cannot leave the train, yet I was standing there listening going, “there is no way they’re going to have sex on the train.” That’s 100% on me for being shocked by that. There are a few sexy times on the train, and as much as I appreciated the scenes, I still had a hard time finding it romantic as mass transit is the least sexy place in my opinion.
Of the two main characters, I did find myself more drawn to Jane than August. August was a bit of a mess at the beginning of the book. Sometimes she also read incredibly young to me, even younger than her 23 years. Her backstory involving her family didn’t pack the impact I think it was supposed to, especially as August is more like her mother than she’s willing to admit. Jane, however, was a character I was fascinated by. She’s a big mystery as even she doesn’t remember her past. I loved uncovering her history and hearing about her life in the 70s. I cannot imagine how hard it was to be a Queer Asian woman during that time, but I loved how Jane fully embraced it.
Outside the romance between Jane and August, I enjoyed the secondary cast of characters in this book. August undergoes such a transformation in this book as she starts out relatively alone but finds her community and a new group of friends who have her back no matter what. While her friends felt a bit overly quirky at times, especially Myla, I still really liked them and got very invested in the secondary romance involving Isaish and Wes. I also truly loved how the settings in the book felt like their own characters. The Q train and Billy’s are the two that stand out in mind the most as they play such a significant role in the story and August and Jane’s relationship, and each had its own personality and vibe.
Overall, I liked this book. I was invested in the romance and I enjoyed digging into Jane’s history. Admittedly, the time travel stuff was a bit odd, but I don’t know how you’d execute this story without it. This was my first McQuiston book, but it certainly won’t be my last. If you’re a fan of audiobooks, this is a great one to pick up. Natalie Naudus brings so much life and emotion to the story – I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much without her in my ear!