This is How We Fly is fun and complex but falls short of its potential

This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
This Is How We Fly by Anna Meriano. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

This is How We Fly is a fun complex story that falls short in the end

Sometimes, when life isn’t going your way, you just have to go and play a little…quidditch?

Ok, it may not be for everyone, but in This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano, when Ellen’s life feels out of control, playing quidditch with her friends is the one bright point.

The Harry Potter element

Alright, let’s start with the big elephant in the room. This clearly has a big part of the Harry Potter world in it. Yes, they are teens and young adults playing quidditch and beating the crap out of each other in the park instead of a magical world, but it’s still an idea from the head of a very transphobic author. So if any reference to Harry Potter isn’t your thing, this isn’t for you.

Ellen finds a bright spot in a tough life

But if you can get past that, This is How We Fly is much more than just quidditch. Ellen Lopez-Rourke feels like she’s losing control of her life. She just graduated from high school and one of her best friends, Xiumiao, decides she wants to distance herself from anything high school which Ellen thinks means her as well.

So Ellen does her best to cling to life as she knows it by hanging out with her other friend, Melissa. And that’s how she gets into quidditch. Melissa’s boyfriend, Chris, plays it regularly and Melissa wants Ellen to join in too.

Normally, Ellen isn’t usually a joiner so why does she agree to play? It would be an understatement to say that her home life is not ideal. It’s pretty bad. Her stepmom, Connie,  is always on her to be something she’s not and her father isn’t around enough to be there for her and when he is around, he’s unreasonable and constantly sides with Connie.

Just reading these interactions felt like there was a dense fog of frustration over the room. I don’t know if I would call it abusive, but it definitely felt bad. No matter how content Ellen is, her home life makes it so she can’t truly catch a break and be completely happy.

That being said, learning to play quidditch and hanging out with Melissa and the new friends she makes there turns a summer she thought would be awful into a summer of fun and new opportunities.

Lots of good moments

There were so many good moments in this book. How Ellen’s love for quidditch is shown to evolve the more she plays is done really well. At first, it’s a mere distraction from being grounded, what’s going on from home, and Xiumiao pulling away from her, but it soon turns into something she genuinely loves and a place she can go where people actually support her.

There are certainly a few pitfalls. Melissa and her end up fighting about secrets they don’t each other, Ellen ends up in a sort-of relationship she doesn’t want to be in with a misogynistic player on the team, and Ellen continues to run from her problems at home and in her friendships. The complexity of it all is very well-developed.

The description of the quidditch scenes is also done incredibly well. You can picture every move and tackle like you’re there watching from the sidelines. Action scenes can be confusing when you’re trying to figure out who is where and what exactly is going on but it was done perfectly here.

I also liked that the author clearly thought through how these teens and young adults could take back something from a bigoted author.

Ellen questions her gender at several points throughout the book, there are quite a few LGBT characters, including their quidditch team captain, Karey, who is a queer Black woman, and the topic of JK Rowling and her transphobia is brought up at least twice. They denounce her, but they won’t let her bigotry stop them from doing something they love.

The ending falls flat

While there was a lot done well, there were also a few issues. The ending was not at all satisfying when it came to Ellen’s home life. After everything that went on with Connie and her father, their apology (if you want to call it that) for their behavior and how they treated Ellen fell flat. I wanted more. I wanted justice for Ellen.

Yes, she gets to go away to college and be away from her dad and stepmom, but we don’t get to see the aftermath of their talk. How did their behavior change? How did they treat her better? With how much this part of Ellen’s life is seen in the book, I needed a more fulfilling ending to the conflict.

I also would have liked a little more build-up and interaction between Ellen and the guy she ends up falling for. It felt a little rushed and just inserted there at almost the last minute. With the way it is now, it could have been cut out entirely and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

Definitely worth reading

Overall, This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano is a complex story about a girl trying to get by when she feels like the rug keeps getting tugged out from under her. It’s very relatable, very fun when it comes to the quidditch matches, and while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly worth a read.

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This is How We Fly by Anna Meriano is available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.