Take Off!

By Lea Beddia

Take Off!
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High-interest accessible novel for teen readers. ~The only thing worse than crash landing a plane is spending a weekend hiking with your bully. Marisa's only hope for a second chance at her test flight is extra credit from a survival camp weekend. As an aviation cadet, hiking ... Read more


High-interest accessible novel for teen readers. ~The only thing worse than crash landing a plane is spending a weekend hiking with your bully. Marisa's only hope for a second chance at her test flight is extra credit from a survival camp weekend. As an aviation cadet, hiking in the wilderness should be a breeze. But Marisa, who is gay and out, needs the courage to deal with Aimee, a toxic basketball star and long-time bully. When Aimee is injured on the hike, Marisa will have to decide how to help her. Getting them to safety may cost Marisa her credits. Is it worth it to save a bully?

Teacher resources available on publisher website: https://www. rebelmountainpress. com/take-off-teacher-resources. html

Lea Beddia

Lea Beddia is an author, storyteller and educator. Born and raised in Montreal, she now teaches in Joliette, Quebec, where she lives with her husband and three children. When she isn't writing for teenagers, she's likely watching zombies take over the world, eavesdropping on conversations, or baking something with too much chocolate. She wanted to be a superhero when she was younger, but will settle for creating characters who can change the world. Her missions are to create accessible literature to striving readers, and to find the best gelato on the planet. She will not give up on her quest for either. Visit her at www.leabeddia.com, on Facebook or Instagram @BeddiaLea.


Thomas drives up one bank of the river and makes a U-turn to have enough room for take-off. Both banks of the river are rocky. If he doesn't maneuver slowly where the water is shallow, he won't see any rocks until we hit them. The wind has picked up and when we turn, it's on our tail, helping us move through the water and up into a smooth take-off.

The mountains are poking through the clouds, and I worry there won't be enough clearance to get the right altitude without flying through cloud.

Aimee is still conscious, and Dawn is coaching her on sipping small amounts of water, which she's finally able to keep down without any dry heaving. She doesn't look great, and she's not talking, which is not like her. A ticking clock in my head reminds me she's been without insulin for over an hour.

At 1,000 feet, my ears pop. The cloud base has dropped and is already thick. Thomas can't go any higher or he'll lose visibility and maybe hit turbulence, and Aimee doesn't need to be bumped around in her condition. But with the mountains up ahead, the pilot will have to keep a safe altitude. The hills are lush and green, and although I'd love for us to have more distance between us and them, flying at half our maximum altitude is the safest bet for now. I watch the gauges as Thomas adjusts our altitude, as I would.

In the distance, more mountains jut upwards. Above the tallest hills, the clouds thicken; we won't have enough clearance. We can increase altitude, but the clouds descend into our flight path. We're already too close to the ground, and there is definitely going to be turbulence, but Thomas stays the course and keeps as low as he can; his eyes on the horizon. I don't know him, but he looks calm, and being next to someone so in control helps me remember to breath. Relax. He's keeping us steady.

"Just a heads-up, ladies--we may hit a little turbulence, but the good news is . . . " He shifts to glance at his GPS.

"It won't last long," I cut in.

"Exactly. Brace yourselves for a little shifting. Puke bags are in the sleeve of the seat in front of you," he says over his shoulder to Dawn. "Yours is . . . " he pauses and points to the door.

"Right here," I say, opening the compartment in the door. "I'll be okay," I say.

As we reach the cloud base above the mountains, the plane vibrates. I grasp the armrest and hold tight as we're jostled around the plane. In a small aircraft like this one, any movement feels intense and amplified.

Thomas controls the plane's roll and pitch by holding the control column with one hand. With the other hand, he adjusts the throttle to recover from the bouncing. But seconds later, we're pitched nose up, the wings rolling up and down. In the next second, the plane drops. It's like riding a roller coaster in the fog--without the fun. I look at the monitor: we've dropped three-hundred feet. The force lifts us off our seats and back down with a bump. I don't get travel sickness, but this drop has me feeling queasy. Dawn lets out a yelp, and Aimee groans.

"Everyone all right back there?" Thomas asks.

"Uh-huh," Dawn says, opening a puke bag and holding it in front of Aimee. "Just in case," she says to me, but Aimee has enough energy to push it away.

"I'm fine," Aimee says, but her pale face and sunken eyes say otherwise.

"Just hang on," I say. "We're almost there. " There's more turbulence and I hold onto my seatbelt, trying to keep from bumping into Thomas. He's a tall man, built, and our shoulders are touching, but I don't want to interfere with his maneuvering. When we start flying more smoothly, I let go, my fingers aching from hanging on so tightly.

Thomas regains our altitude and controls our pitch. The horizon is where it should be, but the engine is running roughly.

"What's that?" Dawn says, noticing the sensation. "It feels like we're stalling. " Her hand is on my shoulder.

"What?" Aimee sits up, but she's not looking any better. Her face drains, and she leans back into her chair.

I place my hand on Dawn's, trying to be reassuring. She's trembling. "What's happening?" Dawn asks.

I stretch my neck out to look at the dash. Thomas notices my curiosity, but remains focused. "The temperature outside has dropped with the altitude we've gained. That, along with the intense humidity, means there might be icing on the carburetor. "

"That's the engine?" Dawn asks.

"It mixes air and fuel for the engine," I correct her.

"So what happens if it gets iced?" Aimee asks. She looks weak and pale, but alert enough to follow the conversation.

There's a shudder throughout the plane, and then a lack of feeling.

The engine is stalling.

I turn back to Thomas. He checks the fuel mixture. There needs to be the right ratio of fuel to air in the carburetor. He makes sure the carburetor heat is on. Selects a different fuel valve. The ignitions are fine, left and right.

It's hard to describe an absence of sound. It's not silent, but there isn't the constant buzz and whirring there should be.

"What just happened?" Dawn asks.

"The engine stopped," I say.

"What the--" Dawn starts, but Thomas cuts her off.

"Just relax. This is going to be fine. " He's so calm and collected, even though our engine has stopped mid-flight. "Marisa, how do you know that?" he asks me.

"Cadets. "

"Great. What's next," he asks me, like this is a ground simulation, and we're not thousands of feet in the air in a stalled plane.

I remember my training. Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.

Aviate: I know what the problem is--icing. I know how to solve it, but it didn't work.

"Start the engine. Check the mixture," I say.

Thomas verifies as I speak. "Mixture rich," he says.

"Throttle full open," I say. "Three pumps of primer to get fuel to the cylinders to start the engine. Turn ignition. " He does each step in tandem as I call it. I think to breathe.

Still nothing.

"It won't start," I say.

Thomas nods, but he's calm.

The girls in the back are stunned, watching and listening. Dawn has her hand over her mouth. Aimee has tears running down her face.

We're gliding, completely vulnerable to the winds around us.

Navigate: We're in the mountains. Beyond them there are fields where Thomas can land. There is a highway. We are north of the airport.


Thomas activates the radio.

"Mayday Mayday Mayday

This is Cessna one-eight-five




Engine failure. Emergency landing. Five miles north of Joliette.

One-thousand feet. One-hundred-twenty KNOTS.

Four souls on board. FOXTROT ROMEO ROMEO KILO. " Thomas's voice is stern, quick, and clear.

I count to three and hope someone will respond.

There is static.

Then a voice.





This is Joliette tower.

Joliette tower.

Joliette tower.

Received Mayday. "

They know where we are. They know where we're going. They know our trouble. But we have to land this plane.


Marissa wants to fly but she's going to have to ace "life on earth" before she can take wing. That means survival camp, which takes on a whole new high-stakes meaning in Lea Beddia's exhilarating new novel ~. Tim Wynne-Jones, author of The Starlight Claim

In this wonderful novel, Lea Beddia kicks-the-tires-and-lights-the fires. In addition to enjoying the suspense and humour in Take Off! readers are sure to fall in love with this novel's fascinating, diverse cast of characters. I'm already looking forward to Beddia's next book!" ~Monique Polak,author of 32 books for young readers, including her most recent,The Brass Charm

Take Off! is a fast-paced adventure story that will engage young readers, especially those with an interest in wilderness survival or aviation. Beddia cleverly uses flying as a metaphor for the ups and downs of complicated relationships, like the one between bully and target. A page-turner that will engage and enlighten young readers. " ~Lori Weber, author The Ribbon Lea(nominated for the 2023 Red Maple Award)

A winning combination: high-action adventure, outdoor survival camp, aviation, a friend turned bully--and with a strong, positive lesbian lead, to boot! Highly recommended book in ultra-readable format. Sheila Davies, librarian

Marisa comes across naturally, and the few references to her coming out and her sexuality are enough to show she doesn't have an issue with it even if others do. It's clear she resents Aimee for her bullying and her homophobic taunts, but Marisa is also established very early on as someone who would help anybody who's in trouble, even Aimee herself. With relatable characters and a compelling storyline, this novel is sure to make a mark on young readers. ~Liana Cusmano,author, editor, and sensitivity reader

Take Off! is a story where the bullied saves the bully, and each discovers their humanity in the process. The protagonist is a teenaged pilot suffering from self-doubt after almost crashing a plane. She is likeable, credible, and defines her essence through her actions. As a reader, I was cheering for her from the first page, as I am for this author. Lea Beddia has all the makings of a great and insightful writer who knows how to plan and move a credible and interesting narrative forward through action, dialogue, visual description to a successful and satisfying conclusion. ~Darlene Madott, award-winning author

The Story is great! Lea Beddia's use of short, snappy chapters is a great way to keep the story moving (and very appealing for readers too, especially reluctant readers)! There is a velar trajectory of the story moving from beginning, middle and end. I was so impressed with the author's revision and level of polish she achieved even prior to final copyediting. I'll be thinking about Marisa, Aimee, Rock, and Dawn for a long time! ~Amber Smith award-winning and New York Times Bestselling author, and editor

This book will be a great addition to our LGBTQ library in our counselling centre. It will open up great discussions about why bullying occurs and that it may not be due to homophobia. The bully often has their own issues. JoAnne Danson, counsellor

As a teacher-librarian, I am always looking for high Interest, ultra-readable books. With themes such as LGBTQ, aviation, and outdoor adventure, Take Off! will definitely pique interest amongst my students. Lisa King, secondary school teacher-librarian

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