I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher
Published by Wednesday Books on 2022-02-22
Length: 320 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2022, 2022 New Release Challenge, COYER 2022
Everyone else in the tiny town of Enfield, Texas, calls fall football season, but for the forty-three members of the Fighting Enfield Marching Band, it’s contest season. And for new saxophonist Anna James, it’s her first chance to prove herself as the great musician she’s trying hard to be.
When she’s assigned a duet with mellophone player Weston Ryan, the boy her small-minded town thinks of as nothing but trouble, she’s equal parts thrilled and intimidated. But as he helps her with the duet, and she sees the smile he seems to save just for her, she can’t help but feel like she’s helping him with something too.
When her strict parents find out she’s been secretly seeing him and keep them apart, Anna and Weston learn what it truly means to fight for something they love. With the marching contest nearing and the two falling hard for one another, the unthinkable happens, and Anna is left grappling for a way forward without Weston.
Ashley Schumacher’s Full Flight is about how first love shapes us—even after it’s gone.
This is one of those stories that will stick with me for a long time. It left me utterly bereft and broken, and yet I can say that it is one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher is a story full of first loves, stolen moments, and the mood swings that come with being a teenager. Written with a distinct and unique voice, Schumacher transported me back in time to my own high school days, to the excitement surrounding a game day, to the band playing our fight song, and to the memories made. The story unfolds around Anna and Weston, two band members who know but don’t know each other, each struggling in their own ways, and finding that maybe together they won’t have to struggle so hard.
Anna and Weston couldn’t be more different. Anna has a bubbly personality, always smiling, always trying to find the good and always trying to be her best. Weston can be off-putting, quiet and reserved, haunted by his parents’ divorce a year earlier. And yet, they bring out the best in each other. They find a way to fill in the places that they feel are empty within themselves together. Anna sees Weston in a way that no one else does. She understands him and his shadows because she has her own. She pushes him out of his comfort zone and shows him that if he’d let others see him as she does, he wouldn’t be lonely.
I love how Schumacher handles mental illness in this book. It isn’t named as such (like as depression or anxiety), but instead described in terms that a teen would describe it. Anna describes hers as the shadows on the wall, creeping in on her and keeping her in the dark. Weston’s is a barren wildfire, consuming everything in its path. I related to these descriptions, remember the feeling of being lonely in a crowded room at their age, not fitting in but trying to.
I also love the duality of the band duet they practice together and the bird from an old school report. These two themes carry throughout the book. A call and a response. Anna’s first introduction to Weston in the story is her begging for his help with her part of their assigned duet, and he answers her call. She responds by helping with homework. A reluctant friendship forms into something more, and it is beautiful to read.
I cannot write a review of this book without talking about the major plot twist. I’m going to place it in spoiler tags here, read at your own risk. View Spoiler » I knew in my gut that something bad was going to happen to Weston. I had read the blurb (which is a HUGE clue) when I first received the book for review, but had obviously forgotten it. I decided to reread the blurb and I just knew he was going to die. His death is made all the more heartbreaking in that Schumacher gives us as the reader a chance to know and love him as Anna does. Just like how she handles mental illness, Schumacher handles Anna’s grief with reverence. It is so real and heartfelt. Her initial numbness to when she feels as if she is breaking is true to life. I ached for Anna and Ratio, Weston’s friend. I sobbed, ugly crying through the last 20% of the book and even now as I write my review. « Hide Spoiler These characters are so true to life. Their joy and heartbreak become yours as the reader. And I personally feel like that is the mark of not just a good author, but a great one.
Overall, despite shattering my heart into a million pieces, I loved Full Flight. Anna and Weston are a beautiful representation of what it is like to be a teen in love for the first time. I highly recommend it.
*I buddy read this one with Lenore @ Celebrity Readers. We cried together, cheered Anna and Weston on, and utterly enjoyed this book. She rated it a 4.5, rounded up.