Macon Leigh’s writing is free and sharp, tough yet tender, like the MC of this book
Sometimes, you’ve barely started reading a story and you know it’s going to be good. The kind of good that makes you want to swear because it’s so fucking good. The kind of good that makes you have to stop reading every page or so to process what you just read. And even the repeated stopping doesn’t hurt the flow. Trust me on that, I had to put this book aside for a couple of weeks because life sucks (though something really fantastic happened during that time so it wasn’t all awful) and when I went back to it, I fell back into the story almost immediately.
Let me tell you what the most amazing thing is about this book being so good: it’s a debut novel. Which means two things: the author is fucking talented (yes, more swearing, get used to it if you plan on reading this story, which you should) and there’s more excellence to come, hopefully.
What’s it about? Baylee Lawrence wakes up one morning in Nashville—in circumstances that are worth noting but I won’t spoil anything—to find a teenage girl waiting for her outside her hotel room. A restless travel writer, Baylee never stays very long in one place, especially not in Nashville, but she can’t resist an adventure either and when the girl, Rivers, asks for help finding people who mattered to her mom in the past (Baylee being the first she finds), she tries very hard not to get involved. And fails. Obviously.
The story is told in two intermingling threads, one over a week in 2010 and one spanning a couple of decades, from Baylee’s arrival to yet another group home as a teen to a few years before the 2010 present timeline. And yes, I got slightly lost in time and between Nashville and Knoxville because of the -ville thing and my working memory is unreliable and I often miss chapter titles (thank you dyspraxia) but I made myself pay attention and it mostly worked out. Even without remembering the exact day something was happening on (despite reading the date a page earlier), the timeline made sense and I was never confused for too long. Someone with a brain wired differently than mine might very well not be confused at all. And you know what? Even if you do get confused a little, it doesn’t matter. Life is confusing. This book is life. And it’s worth every effort you might have to put in.
The Flight Risk tackles a lot of difficult themes—kids with no parents, kids with awful parents, grief, survival of all kinds—but even though the topics are heavy, the book isn’t. Because the characters are so complicated and well-written, so lovable and warm and all you want is for life to give them a break, because they deserve it so much, or for them to realize the break is each other. And the writing… It’s free and sharp, tough yet tender. It’s perfect for this story, for this character (the story is told in first person from Baylee’s POV). As cynical and matter-of-fact as she can be, Baylee also has the ability to be delighted and I don’t know if she remembered the feeling before Rivers showed up. And then there’s the longing. I haven’t mentioned all the characters because it will be so much better if you meet them as you read but damn, is there longing… And yearning. And want. And pain, because as it turns out, despite being a sucker for fluffy and heartwarming, my favourite stories are the ones that hurt then soothe. The Flight Risk is one of those. It hurts and it soothes. It’s also a favourite now. I had my first book hangover in a pretty long time after I read it and had to go back to an older favourite–The Perfect Match by Milena McKay–before moving on to something new. Now I hope there’s an audiobook someday (Natalie Naudus comes to mind as a narrator), I would love to experience these characters and this story again. I’m ready for the tears and the laughs. 4.5 stars.