Review: This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano

“It’s amazing to see. It’s amazing to recognize the rush of pride that I feel when I see it. That’s my teammate, this is my team, and this is how we fly.”

|| Goodreads ||

17-year-old vegan feminist Ellen Lopez-Rourke has one muggy Houston summer left before college. She plans to spend every last moment with her two best friends before they go off to the opposite ends of Texas for school. But when Ellen is grounded for the entire summer by her (sometimes) evil stepmother, all her plans are thrown out the window.

Determined to do something with her time, Ellen (with the help of BFF Melissa) convinces her parents to let her join the local muggle Quidditch team. An all-gender, full-contact game, Quidditch isn’t quite what Ellen expects. There’s no flying, no magic, just a bunch of scrappy players holding PVC pipe between their legs and throwing dodgeballs. Suddenly Ellen is thrown into the very different world of sports: her life is all practices, training, and running with a group of Harry Potter fans.

Even as Melissa pulls away to pursue new relationships and their other BFF Xiumiao seems more interested in moving on from high school (and from Ellen), Ellen is steadily finding a place among her teammates. Maybe Quidditch is where she belongs.

But with her home life and friend troubles quickly spinning out of control–Ellen must fight for the future that she wants, now she’s playing for keeps.

This is How We Fly has provided me with the perfect escape from my own IRL battles to Ellen’s on-the-page coming of age battles. It has been the perfect mix of cute moments, eye rolls, relatable dramas, and much more.

Anna Meriano does an excellent job of characterizing Ellen as a straight-out-of-highschool teenager absolutely filled to the brim with angst. She’s comical, snarky, and she cares a whole bunch about everything. Though I have yet to read any reviews of this book, I can practically hear the negative reviews now complaining about how “annoying” Ellen is. To some degree that may be true–Ellen has something to say about everything. But what I really appreciate regarding Ellen’s character is how bright her personality shines through in every scene. She embodies the saying “do it even if you’re scared.” She embodies speaking up for your morals and calling out poor behavior, all while doing so in less than ideal ways (most) of the time. Meriano managed to craft a character that always has the best intentions but messes up often, which is not only realistic but also incredibly relatable. It made reading Ellen’s internal dialogue fun and humorous and allowed me to sympathize with her tribulations along the way.

Aside from a shining main character, this book also addresses multiple social issues and home life challenges. The prevaling struggle Ellen navigates in this novel is the challenge that is a merged family. Ellen’s father has remarried to who is now Ellen’s stepmom after her biological mother passes away when Ellen was young. Ellen’s stepmom also has a younger daughter who she is fiercely protective over. Merged families are often incredibly delicate and clashes are bound to happen, which is a main source of stress in this book. Despite the stress, we see Ellen throughout the book try (and often fail) to keep peace with her stepmother for the sake of her father and younger stepsister. This brings up the importance of setting boundaries and communicating with family even when it is incredibly uncomfortable. Ellen and her stepmother also continously clash over flippant remarks about weight, race, and sexism.

Lastly, the other shining star of This is How We Fly is the quidditch team spirit. I’ve never been a sports player throughout my childhood or adolescence, but this book gave me a good glimpse of how challenging and eurphoric being on a sports team probably is. Though there is ample drama between the various teammates, there is also ample support and accountability which made all of it feel very human. I enjoyed getting to know the team members and their personalities, as well as learning about how quidditch works in general. I know I’m probably not the only one who read this book and never knew that this was an actual sport in the actual world!

All in all, This is How We Fly was a very wholesome and honest coming-of age young adult novel. It can be analyzed further for more social commentary, but I chose to take this book incredibly lightly and use it to escape into someone else’s problems for the time being. If you’re looking for a humorous, snarky main character who has a lot to say, and themes of friendship and family drama, college, and learning how to be a better person, this is the book for you.

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