Saturday, July 21, 2012

Such a Rush

Occasionally I come across books that are interesting and read fast, but I still don't like them. Usually, that's because my complaints with the book are on moral grounds. In the case of this month's release Such a Rush, a young adult novel by Jennifer Echols, I am torn about what rating to give. I liked it enough to read it quickly and finish it. I liked certain aspects of it, like the fact that a teenager learns to fly airplanes. That's just different than a lot of other stuff out there right now. It's not paranormal or futuristic or post-apocalyptic. It's contemporary but unique.

The parts I didn't like were those where the girl dressed inappropriately (yes, it matters even in a book; I can still visualize it, and it still sends a message) or where teenagers had sex or even just groped each other. Whenever I come across that in a book, I will always red flag it, particularly in young adult fiction. I'm not naive. I know young adults are having sex. It doesn't mean I agree with it, and it doesn't mean their books should be filled with it.

In this case, there's more to it than a girl just throwing her body around carelessly. She comes from a dysfunctional family, has lived in poverty all her life, and has developed a way to cope with her situation. She's not promiscuous, though you might at first think that from the way she dresses and talks. She's only ever slept with one person once, and because she doesn't want to get pregnant, she's concerned about condoms and safety. I wish the emphasis was on abstinence rather than protection. Showing concern that the teenage protagonist has only protected sex seems like pandering to the audience to me. What it looks like is that the author wanted to write about teenage sex to impress her readers, but because she didn't want to send the wrong message, she had to be sure she put it in the "right way."

I'm not saying that was the author's primary goal. If the author had an agenda here (besides just telling a good story), I don't think it was to promote or emphasize sex. She was simply being realistic as she presented a message of hope, showing that circumstances can be overcome. I, however, would still have liked to see less sexuality, or if it had to be there to make a point, it could have been less graphic. (SPOILERS to follow.) But some of the sex definitely seems to be there just because the author knows that's what people want to read. There are sex scenes between the girl and the nice, upstanding love interest of the story. Sex scenes that are there for pure sensationalism bother me. They send a message that teenage sex or sex outside of marriage is okay, and though I know I'm in the minority here, I don't agree. (If you've read previous reviews from me, you've heard this many times.) My objections are about more than teenage pregnancy. They are about a person's spiritual and emotional health. (But I've talked about this before and won't go into it at length now.)

Besides the sex, there's a lot of language. Leah and her best friend call each other "b----," and though I know that goes with the territory in a novel about dysfunctionality and poverty, reading that kind of thing is not for everyone. There is also the use of synonyms for female prostitutes, among other scattered uses of foul language.

What this book does well, though, is tell a story. A girl pursues her dream, and through hard work, she lifts herself out of her circumstances. At fourteen, after a recent move (one of many in her life throughout South Carolina but never out of the state), Leah gets a job as a secretary of sorts at the small local airport. There she meets a man who sees the spark and potential in her and teaches her to fly. From afar, she falls in love with one of his twin sons. When disaster strikes three years later, she must decide how high a price she's willing to pay to keep her dream alive.

Although it's an intriguing story, my qualms about the lack of morality in the book allow me to give it only two and a half stars. In other words, I enjoyed parts of it, but I can't recommend it.

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