I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Sophie Marshall is a product of a teenage pregnancy, and her mother’s emotional maturity hasn’t advanced past the date of her sixteenth birthday. Growing up and being the top student in your class is hard enough as it is, but when you add a mother who’s really a kid at heart, you’re the one who has to be there for her instead of the other way round. Sophie’s childhood and teenage years mostly consisted of moving around the country following her mother’s one failed relationship after another. She’s only managed to make some friends during her junior year of high school, but on the last day, her mother tells her that they have to move. Again. Understandably, Sophie is pissed – she’s certain that finishing senior year in some strange place, away from her support system in the form of her friends is going to be awful. However, a girl doesn’t have too many options and her mother needs an adult figure in the house.
Despite her reservations, Sophie’s new home and school turn out to be a lot different than she expected. At first glance, it starts all over again – her mother gets a new boyfriend and Sophie is shunned by the popular kids. However, when the school’s handsome basketball star Alex takes an interest in Sohphie, her life takes a very different turn. Will their relationship survive? Or has Sophie been too emotionally scarred by her mother?
“Learning to Fly” is a book that has previously been self-published, which did explain a number of typos and errors in the text (e.g. “Sophie” and “Sophia”). In this case, I didn’t have as much of an issue with it as I normally would in case of a self-published novel. I had, however, a number of other issues with this book – which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the two train rides that it took me to finish.
First of all, I was counting on a book that focuses primarily on a mother-daughter relationship and character development. Did I get that? Yes, but in a much smaller dose than I was hoping for, and it was very much a “tell, don’t show” narrative, rather than a “show don’t tell”. Second of all, I was wrong – this is a romance novel, instead of a YA that focuses on the parent-and-child dynamic. Long-time readers of my blog know that romance is not my favourite of genres (which is not to say I don’t read romance novels when I’m in the mood for them), and “Learning to Fly” has ticked many boxes next to the reasons why I am not too fond of romance.
Let’s start with the love interest. Alex is your quientessential popular high-school jock who has the eyes of every girl at school on him. He is the definition of “cliche”, and as his relationship with Sophie progresses, he fits the definition more and more. Perhaps I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be seventeen and in love for the first time, or perhaps my problem is that I never liked sporty guys that much anyway, but I thought that Alex was pretty darn awful. And that’s saying a lot, given that the book is from Sophie’s , a.k.a. his adoring girlfriend’s perspective. I absolutely hated how he treated her and pressured her into things she didn’t want, and yet that made her want him more and more. Perhaps it’s “realistic” for a teenage girl to feel that way (although I don’t ever remember feeling that way, which probably makes me very lucky), but it doesn’t mean that that’s OK. I really hate it when love interests in romance books pressure someone (or are pressured) into sexual relations or any other things. This sort of thing does not sit well with me and it never will.
Also, I really hated how Sophie was willing to give up going to Brown to follow a guy she only met a few months ago to a college called FSU (which, as far as I understand, is far inferior to Brown). While I did think that that was one of the most realistic ways for her to act, given her background and what she had to have learned from her mother, that was another thing that didn’t sit well with me.
Finally, I hated how the author constantly alluded to Sophie being asexual/demisexual, and did a complete 180 towards the end of the book. If she were confirmed to be ace, perhaps I would’ve enjoyed “Learning to Fly” more than I did – books with interesting asexual characters are rare, particularly in contemporary romance books.
I’m sorry to sound so negative – “Learning to Fly” was a good way to spend a couple of train rides to and from work, and I was interested in what was going to happen to Sophie, but the bad things about the book just outweigh the good ones for me.
“I learned to cope by getting lost in the pages of a good book. The problem comes when you realize life isn’t anything like the tales you read”.
“A woman shouldn’t give up her dreams to follow a boy who isn’t willing to alter his dreams for her”.
Sophie – Sophie Turner
Alex – Alexander Ludwig
Angie – Lauren Graham
You might like “Learning to Fly” if you liked:
“Last Heartbeat series” by T.R.Lykins
“One Tree Hill”