Estelle: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: MTV Books (Division of Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 320
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: airplanes, flying, high school seniors, romance, strong female characters
Format read: ARC sent to us from Annie at Small Girls, Big Business. (THANK YOU!)

Summary: The only time Leah has felt control in her life is when she is piloting an airplane. And she’s not going to give up that feeling for anyone… not even Grayson, the Hall brother she had on a crush on for the past few years and the one who is currently blackmailing her…

It’s easy to feel spoiled by Jennifer Echols and her writing. Going Too Far? Forget You? Two books that deserve no bookmarks. Two books that are vacation days well spent. The chemistry, the well-developed characters, the omg-sexy moments. It’s like a reader’s paradise. And just when you think it can’t get any better, she does it again with even more conviction, even more punch, weaving in a strong-willed female main character and a lot of mystery, in her newest book: Such a Rush.

Leah has practically raised herself, moving from trailer park to trailer park, with a mother who  thinks she is a teenager. At the age of 14, Leah is determined to do something useful with the life she has been dealt and decides she wants to learn to fly airplanes. This is where she finds a place to get away from her home life, and also take control of her future. So it’s not a surprise when, 3 years later, she would do just about anything to hold on to what she loves the most — even if it means allowing herself to be blackmailed by the Grayson, the (hot but reckless) son, of her (now deceased) boss.

As a main character in a young adult world overcome with females, Leah kicks ass. Because she is 1) takes no bullshit 2) knows what she wants and won’t stop until she has it 3) manages to still be vulnerable without any of the “woe is me, I’ll never be pretty enough” crap. Hi, she has much larger problems then her lack of a wardrobe and curly hair. She may have grown up in a trailer park but she’s not going to let anyone get the best of her. (Even though every guy she comes across seems like a grade-A asshole.) Not even Grayson, who she has been silently crushing on for years at this point (despite his many flaws). I loved her drive and her inner thoughts. I felt she deserved so much more than a mother who neglected her and a father who walked away. My heart just wanted a white knight to come and swoop her away and take her somewhere beautiful. (Even though I know she would have never given him the time of day.)

After the first few chapters, the remainder of the book is spread over one very long spring break week. Alec and Grayson Hall are determined to take over their father’s business after he dies unexpectedly, and Leah is roped into working because of Grayson’s blackmailing. I have to say, I was very surprised by his request. It has everything to do with his brother but I was imagining something totally different. Grayson’s demands add so much intrigue to the story, and suspense… I was practically salivating as I sped through the chapters. (Why is he doing this, I kept asking myself!) These characters take on such adult responsibility and feelings during this week, all time and knowledge of age melted away, and I was floating in this extremely high-pressure bubble of three people, vying for control and direction of their lives.

How far will they each go to get what they want?

Echols does an impressive job of crafting her characters and a complex storyline, while keeping every detail, every soundbyte authentic. (The intricacies of flying and airplanes were so well-explained but never took the reader out of the dynamics of the story.) The chemistry and tension between many of the characters (especially Grayson and Leah) blew me away and made me so over anxious for the moments when things would come together sweetly, messily, passionately, or dangerously. Even though the story focuses mostly on Leah and Grayson, there is almost a widescreen lens that opens up this  world and its supporting characters in a way that the readers are invested in every one of them to the very end — when we are blown out of this ageless/timeless bubble and brought back to our characters acting their age.

So much can change in a week. This is the electrifying truth in Such a Rush. It’s wild, slow, steady and sort of fulfills every emotion of flying — the highs, the lows, the dependencies, the responsibility, letting the wind take control. Trust. Letting go but remaining aware and precise; it forces you to really be in the moment. And as a reader, I was there until the final page… or at least until I opened the book and started rereading many of my favorite passages the following day. While I have had the pleasure of reading many strong novels this year, there aren’t many I felt the compulsive need to reread in such a hurry.

I’m warning you… Such a Rush is dangerous. You will ignore your husband, bump into a few people as you walk and read, and you will love every delicious moment of it. Echols does what I hope more will do with contemporary fiction; she challenges her readers, creates multi-dimensional relatable storylines that focus on many areas of a character’s life, knows the importance of details, and presents the world with female characters who are brave but flawed.

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* Full disclosure: I had already pre-ordered Such a Rush for my Nook before receiving this copy, and after reading, I’m totally ordering a hardcover as well. (If that tells you anything.)

Estelle: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 392
Target Audience: Young adult
Keywords
: Young love, child neglect, family, music
Source: Hardcover borrowed from library

Summary
: The first day Sam sees Emily she is (badly) singing “I’ll Be There” in front of her church. The words stir something inside of Sam and both of them feel it. After Sam abruptly disappears, Emily can’t stop thinking about him and one night, they are brought together once again. Emily knows that he is thoughtful and a good listener, different than another of the boys she knew, but what she doesn’t know is that he doesn’t go to school, his father has abducted him and his brother, and the chances of him sticking around are not likely…

Every now and then I come across a book that reminds me of young adult books I read in grade school — not a ton of dialogue, filled with a bit of adventure, maybe a small love story. Even the writing style, full of clear, succinct sentences that move at a steady pace and mean a whole lot. With I’ll Be There I was reminded (once again) of Louis Sachar’s Holes and another all-time favorite, Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons. Both books deal with families, various trials, and almost come together with a fairy tale like quality.

Emily and Sam come from completely different worlds. Emily has a mom, dad, brother, and a dog. Sam has his brother, Riddle (who doesn’t talk much), a father (Clarence) who abducted them and steals to help himself survive. (Keyword: himself.) For as long as he can remember, Sam has been the one to take care of his brother, while both steer as clear from their father as possible. Sam and Riddle don’t go to school. Riddle draws in phone books and Sam tries to make some pocket change on the side so they can eat. It is absolutely heartbreaking how Clarence neglects his children. In fact, I’m shocked he didn’t leave them on the side of the road long ago.

You can see why Sam keeps his life a secret from Emily. He does a pretty good job of it too. He doesn’t answer a lot of questions, he meets her places, but her parents are concerned when they meet him and Riddle. They believe something isn’t right and when Clarence discovers the cell phone that the Bells give him… he knows they won’t be sticking around much longer.

The story certainly takes a turn from here. A slow and sweet romance between Sam and Emily, the affection the Bells have for Sam and Riddle, and the connection these boys finally have with someone come to a screeching halt and for the rest of the book, the reader is thrust into a suspenseful and frightening story. (I was so nervous I had to eat a snack on the way home to calm my nerves while reading.)

Sloan certainly nailed the feelings of a girl who has had her heart broken and hopes against all hope that Sam will come back to her. Even when she attempts to keep busy with Bobby — a self-righteous fella from her high school who is majorly crushing on her and will do just about anything to get her attention — and going about her life before Sam came into it. The change in her is so apparent. She feels entirely helpless and directionless, and loses her belief in love.

And as for the brothers… I have never read a pair quite like this. Sam has always been the caretaker and Riddle has a developmental disorder (that’s never been treated) yet they understand each other. They have each other’s backs in a way that all siblings should and it chokes me up just thinking about all they’ve been through and all the challenges they face for the remainder of the book. I was rooting for them the entire time.

One thing I loved about Sloan is how she presented a good amount of characters throughout the 400-page book and came back to every single one of them. There is not one storyline left unanswered. (One complaint though… all the descriptions talk about Emily’s awesome best friend when she is practically MIA for the whole book. She didn’t seem to fit into the super friend category at all.) It definitely showed how one moment can change a person, and affect a bunch of others without even meaning to. From the start to the very end, I felt incredibly invested in Emily, Riddle, and Sam and wanted them to find their own happiness, wanted good to triumph over evil.

Will they?

I hope you’ll take the time to dive into this moving novel and find out.

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