Ariel Crashes a Train

Ariel Crashes a Train, inspired by author and journalist Olivia A. Cole's own struggles with undiagnosed OCD in 2020, uses poetry to compassionately explore the complicated reality of living with intrusive thoughts.

Seventeen-year-old white Ariel struggles with the "crocodile" in her mind: swampy, violent thoughts about the damage a "too big," too-queer girl could inflict. Her sister, Mandy, is away for the summer and, without her confidant, Ariel's counting rituals don't feel like enough to protect the world from her "what ifs": "What if I followed them in with a knife?" Her job at the carnival should be an escape, but Ariel knows her new queer friends would run if they knew what she was thinking. The crocodile is sinking its teeth further into Ariel when Mandy texts with a realization: Ariel has obsessive compulsive disorder. Mandy assures Ariel that she's not evil like the serial killers Ariel studies, telling her, "You don't think about blood because you want to hurt people--/ you think about blood because you don't." Now that Ariel knows what she has, maybe she can face the crocodile head-on.

This moving, compassionate, and powerful work is vital reading for those struggling with mental health or those who love earnest novels-in-verse. Cole (Dear Medusa) accurately represents the many nuances of a modern teen through Ariel's navigation of queer identity, her responsibilities as a younger sibling, and gender expectations. A perfect read-alike for fans of We Are Mayhem by Beck Rourke-Mooney or Home Is Not a Country by Safia Elhillo. --Nicole Brinkley, bookseller and writer

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