Unless you’re the Zack Morris type, high school can be less than awesome. And Two-Shoes, the protagonist of Kenan Rubenstein’s Last Train to Old Town, is no Zack Morris. Whether he’s being shoved into a locker, chided for reading for fun, or told to sit somewhere else at lunch, Two-Shoes remains pretty much un-phased. This resilient little nerd marches to his own beat and Stone, a modern James Dean type who heads a band of misfits, has taken notice.
Stone’s got a plan, and it involves cutting class and catching a train to Old Town. Though the Old Town locals aren’t known for taking too kindly to visitors, Stone is determined. He’s reduced life to a set of rules, and Rule 22B goes “if your mom doesn’t want you to do it, it’s awesome”. With Two-Shoes, a tomboy named Jessica who prefers to be called C.J., and big, dopey, Metalhead Mike in tow, they board the Old Town bound train. Weird things are going to happen.
But let’s talk about high school…
Newtown High School (bold nomenclature decision much?) is a suburban high school like any other, with its cliques, its cool kids and, of course, its uncool kids. Ah, the perils. But Rubenstein suggests a different perspective, through a wider lens. Old Town, just a train ride away, is a completely different world. And every aspect of life, good or bad, is temporary.
Rubenstein’s delicate, understated backgrounds create a sort of quietude against which Two-shoes and company, all bold and expressive, truly pop – a triumph in terms of readability and direction. Pay attention to those backgrounds, though. They are laden with symbolism.
You can’t find this book just anywhere, but you can visit lasttraintooldtown.com to read the story, see more of Rubenstein’s work, and maybe find him at a convention near you. It’s worth your while.