The title and subtitle serve as an important role in promoting a book because it gives the first impression in a clear and concise way that makes the audience excited to read the book. The title and subtitle also hint at crucial underlying themes, genre, and central ideas to the story. Dashka Slater, author, does this for the reader by carefully choosing the title The 57 Bus and the subtitle A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives because it is relevant to the main themes in the story including social and economic inequality and accountability of your actions.
The main title, The 57 Bus, connects to the story because Sasha’s accident took place on the 57 Bus. Furthermore, the title also shows an underlying theme within the book, which is the social and economic inequality in Oakland. In the first few pages of the book, Slater introduces the inequality of Oakland:
The 57 Bus travels through both kinds of neighborhoods, traversing an eleven-mile path from one end of the city to the other. It begins at the northwest corner of Oakland and lumbers diagonally through the city, crossing the middle-class foothills where Sasha lived and where Richard went to school, and then chugging along MacArthur Boulevard for 120 blocks. The route terminates the city’s southeast border, close to Richard’s house. (Slater 7-8)
This shows the social and economic inequality because the bus travels from the hills, which is where the rich people live, to the flats, which is where the poor people live, including Richard; thus, implying that the transportation system can limit or expand the opportunities available to people based on where they live. In this case, it limited Richard because he was around people that did not understand what it was like to live in an area surrounded by crime and violence. Sasha’s middle-class home is miles away from Richards, suggesting that there is no reason why their lives should’ve crossed. Slater hints at this when she writes, “Each afternoon, the two teenagers’ journeys overlapped for a mere eight minutes. If it hadn’t been for the 57 bus, their paths might have never crossed at all” (8).
The subtitle of the book, “A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives” is relevant to the story because it suggests that something dramatic happened, forever impacting the course of their lives. In the book, readers see this happen because while Sasha and Richard have to live with the consequences of the fire in different ways, both characters have been impacted in significant ways because of the accident. Readers are exposed to the consequences while reading The 57 Bus, making the audience feel sympathetic for both characters in different ways. Sasha’s life changed because they have to live with the health issues that are associated with getting caught on fire. Slater writes about Sasha’s life being changed when stating, “When everything that used to be normal was suddenly difficult: showering (seated now, using a handheld shower), getting dressed (both legs had to be wrapped in three layers of bandages, going to school (they were so tired, just so very tired)” (208). This quote exposes the harsh reality that Sasha will continue to battle health problems for the rest of their life because of the accident.
For Richard, readers see this differently. Rather than seeing it on the outside, the audience sees how it’s affected him on the inside. Richard will have to spend time in jail; however, he will also have to live with the fact that he caught someone on fire. In the letters he wrote to Sasha after the accident, readers saw his emotional battles. He writes, “I just wanted to say that I’m still very sorry and I hope your getting better. I had a nightmare last night and woke up sweating and apologizing” (Slater 184), along with, “I regret what I did, I didn’t know that your clothing would catch like it did, even though I had no reason to do it anyways” (Slater 184). In the letters he wrote to Sasha, readers see firsthand the regret Richard is going through, and how it impacts him emotionally. Therefore, not only does he have to live in prison and being persecuted, but he will also have to fight internal battles for the rest of his life.
Slater not only chose the title and subtitle to grab the reader’s attention, but it also suggests main themes throughout the story including social and economic inequality and accountability for your actions.