Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.
But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.
By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying.
Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly. (Goodreads)
Leah is a girl from the wrong end of town, deemed trash by most people she comes in contact with. Outside of a flighty, irresponsible mother who doesn’t even make an effort to provide her basic needs, Leah has no family. She and her unemployed mom live in the trailer park near the airport with no car and an endless list of her mom’s loser boyfriends shuffling in and out. Leah’s only outlet is her job at Hall Aviation, where she began pumping gas and doing secretarial work at the age of fourteen. She convinced Mr. Hall to give her cheap flying lessons unbeknownst to her mom (it’s called forging the permission slip) and now, three years later, Leah is prepping to fly for Hall during Spring and Summer breaks, finally a licensed pilot.
The rug is pulled from under her and everyone at Hall when the Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving his business to his twin eighteen year-old boys. Leah has watched these boys—dark and irresponsible Grayson, and lighthearted Alec—from afar for the last few years, but has never truly gotten to know them. And it’s the ultimatum (or blackmail, actually) that Grayson issues to Leah that forces her into the turmoil surrounding the family and the business. Grayson—the one Leah has always crushed on—wants her not only to fly for Hall Aviation, but he also wants her to get Alec to fall for her. She’s not even remotely interested in Alec and she resents the fact that Grayson assumes, as everyone else does, that she’s slutty trailer trash who’d be with any guy. She goes along with the plan only because Grayson threatens to rat her out to her mom for forging her permission slip a few years earlier and Leah fears it could mar her record.
Drama ensues because Alec is dorky and confused about Leah and her sudden interest in him. At the same time, Leah is so sick of her life, of her mom, of people’s unfair view of her. She tries to go along with Grayson’s plan, but it doesn’t feel right. And it doesn’t help matters that Grayson is this steaming hot brand of sexy who sort of flirts with her one minute and acts like he hates her the next.
Here’s the thing. I liked this book, but I was not head over heels for it the way so many are. It just never really reached the heights I was hoping for. I think my main issue was with Leah. I hate it when girls try to be all Tough-Girl-With-A-Chip-On-Her-Shoulder. I just don’ relate because I am not a tough girl with a chip on my shoulder. She certainly has reason to be edgier, and to struggle because her life is extremely difficult, which is why she eventually grew on me—but in the beginning, Leah and I were not friends.
I liked both boys, especially Grayson. Of the two Echols books I’ve read, I’ve found her to be very adept at writing good, swoony, exasperating, imperfect guys who are compelling and completely realistic. Grayson was confusing, infuriating and sweet and exhibited a wide range of emotions considering he was a) a teenage boy b) just dealt with a major family tragedy and c) doing all this while being eighteen and running the family business. He was likeable, even with that whole ugly blackmail thing (which is explained later in the story).
I also liked the fact that although the book has barely begun before Mr. Hall dies, he lives on as an additional character, memorialized by Leah, Grayson and Alec. His sayings, his way of doing things and the advice he gave to each of them comes across in their conversations and ultimately in how each of them decides to live their lives.
On the other hand, I had a difficult time with the Rich People/Poor People thing. I’m not saying that Leah’s life didn’t suck–because it did, but I’ve just never personally seen teenagers who hate each other because of money. It sort of reminded me of Pretty in Pink, and not in a good, Duckie sort of way.
I spent my life in private school where I was neither the rich girl, nor the poor girl, but this was not an issue I saw firsthand therefore, when I see it in films or read it in books, it seems exaggerated to me. That’s not to say it doesn’t go on, but here, the way people viewed Leah and they way the kids at school treated her just seemed a little over the top.
Also, Grayson’s blackmail? I understand that Leah doesn’t want her record to be marked in any way, but she expresses concern that her mom is going to flip out and that made absolutely no sense to me. This is a woman who doesn’t bother to make sure her daughter eats, who leaves her Leah alone for days or weeks on end. I found it hard to believe she’d be that upset that Leah took flying lessons without permission.
But oh, there are some sweet kisses here. And some good, good moments. Despite my slight complaints, this was still a very cute book.
Crush Intensity: 3.5/5