High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.
But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are 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.
I really loved this book. The heroine, Leah, was such an interesting character. Her issues, and there were many, were understandable and real. She’s the trailer trash girl that everyone at school assumes is a slut, but she really isn’t. She has to put up this facade in order to survive as a very attractive poor girl in a school full of rich, snobby bitches. Her mother, who had Leah when she was 16, is more a figurehead than an actual parent. Leah has to feed herself, clothe herself, take care of herself. She even has to PAY RENT while her mother goes without a job, spends what she has at the casino, and depends on boyfriend after boyfriend.
The only power Leah has comes from her job working at a small-town airport as a receptionist. She starts to save money in order to get flying lessons. She’s not going to be her mother. Her goal is to become an airline pilot, eventually, after she graduates and gets the hell out of Heaven’s Beach. Generally, when someone is brought up in the environment that she has been, with an absentee parent and/or a mother who is dependent on men, they will either fall into the same pattern or claw their way out. Leah is a claw her way out kinda girl. And that’s just one of the things I loved about her.
She’s not without her faults. Leah uses her beauty to get things for herself, but the things she gets aren’t anything to take to the bank, and I believe that it’s generally pretty innocuous. A lot of the time, I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be alright. Even though she narrated the story, I felt like she was still holding a lot back. We didn’t really know her. Maybe because she didn’t want to acknowledge certain things she’s had to endure or certain things about herself that she is ashamed of. This was especially true of her relationship with her best friend, Molly, who is a popular rich girl.
Molly & Leah’s relationship is strained and strange. There are a lot of unwritten rules between the two. Leah feels like Molly’s charity case and she feels like she has to behave a certain way to keep being friends with her. There are all these limits and walls around their friendship, put in place by both of them. They have a genuine affection for each other and they need each other, but their positions in society have a way of creating barriers that neither can really ignore.
The other characters in the book, Alec and Grayson, the sons of Leah’s mentor and boss, are a mystery to Leah, at least initially. When their older brother and their father die within a month of each other, Grayson blackmails Leah into not only flying for his company but also dating Alec, which seems strange, but his reasoning, which we learn much later, really makes you feel for Grayson and made me fall in love with him a little bit more.
Leah’s attraction to Grayson, who seems to her to have everything, including money, good looks, and a mysteriousness that draws her in, has been on simmer since she met them when she was 14. All these years she’s been in love with him, but she never thought she would ever have a chance with him. And now he wants her to date his brother for some mysterious reason? Is it because she’s a supposed “slut”? So Leah dresses the part and let me tell you, it’s satisfying to see the reaction she gets not only from Alec but also from Grayson. And then Alec’s not exactly interested in her, but seems to be playing the part.
At the end of the day, I really liked Leah and Grayson. It was interesting to see behind the facades that both of them put on for the world. I liked that Leah was ambitious and stood up for herself, even when she felt vulnerable. She was strong and despite the fact that she wanted Grayson, she didn’t throw herself at him. I respected her and I feel like I understood her, even if I didn’t exactly KNOW her. We had a lot in common in some ways. I also really liked Grayson because he did what he thought he needed to do to keep his family together.