This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano feels a bit like a fairy tale story written to be a movie- but in the best way possible. The story follows recent high school graduate, Ellen Lopez-Rourke, through her last summer before she moves out to start college. Ellen is a stubborn vegan feminist who troubles herself with taking on all the problems that plague society; she follows environmental blogs and vegan activist groups online, keeping a daily ritual of scrolling for a couple of hours to stay up to date with all of the news.
However, Ellen deals with more pressing problems in her own house. Her stepmom is out to get her, trying to keep her under tight control, suggesting that Ellen take on less worldly views and try to be more ‘normal’. Connie, the evil stepmom of the story, feels that Ellen should try and be more outwardly feminine and less feminist if she wants to fit in. Even worse, Connie makes Ellen feel like an outsider to the family, often making jabs at how she doesn’t fit properly into the family dynamic. Even her dad hints that things will be better once she leaves for college.
Ellen feels misunderstood which often ends in a lot of fighting with Connie, ultimately leading to her being grounded for the whole summer. Luckily, thanks to her best friend Melissa, she’s able to find solace in going to Quidditch practice a couple times a week.
Ellen struggles to keep peace at home and finds it more difficult as she sees both her best friends grow apart from her over the summer. She isn’t ready to grow up, to leave everything behind.
Anna Meriano beautifully articulates the inner turmoil of emerging adulthood through Ellen’s character—the expectations of taking on all the responsibilities of an adult while still being treated as a child. The confusing labyrinth that is sexual orientation, gender identity and cultural identity are all examined through a lens of teenage angst and insecurity. Ellen reflects on her own uncertainty about herself and questions those around her, making for an immersive perspective that makes you rethink your own teenage years.
This is How We Fly really grasps hold of the modern-day travails young adults face and helps educate readers on the pressing problems they present. It offers such an emotional view of a classic sports tale with the magical twist of learning how to grow up in modern day America.
Throughout the book, I found myself slipping into Ellen’s role more and more, going back to the time I felt just as confused and misunderstood. It made me wish I had been as headstrong and woke at that age, standing up for myself and things I believed in. It makes me miss all of the drama that comes along with being a teen and all of the firsts you get to experience.
It also makes me appreciate the diversity of it all. I may sound like a twenty-year-old boomer, but it is so refreshing to read fiction that has representation for nonbinary folks, lesbians, and BIPOC. Growing up I didn’t have access to stories like Ellen’s, but it is invigorating to know that people coming of age now will get the chance to see themselves in Anna Meriano’s work.
Reading about Ellen’s character progression was addicting; it created a vacuum of sorts that kept me turning pages all day. Anna Meriano has elegantly mastered the art of creating a completely engrossing book that makes you wish for a couple hundred more pages, or a sequel. It was such an incredible read and, whether you read it just for fun or to peer into the reality of teenage life in America, you will not be disappointed.