Hardcover (also available as an e-book and audiobook), 978-0-5931-1687-6, 480 pgs., $18.99
December 15, 2020
“I miss feeling like I knew how to exist in my family without setting off everyone’s alarm bells.”
Relationships can quickly erode if left mired in misunderstanding and miscommunication. Ellen Lopez-Rourke is a seventeen-year-old vegan feminist and a recent high-school graduate in Houston, Texas, but freedom from a troubled home life is not yet within reach.
Ellen’s relationship with her stepmother has deteriorated over the years, and her father typically sides with his wife to keep the peace. Ellen had thought her summer before college would be fantastic, until she is grounded for being disrespectful and her friend Xiumiao says she needs space so she can get over her secret, unrequited crush on their mutual friend, Melissa. The only activity Ellen is allowed outside the home is joining Melissa on a Quidditch team that competes in statewide tournaments. The author’s description of how these Quidditch players “fly” during the games provides a bit of humor amidst the angst of teens transitioning into adulthood.
Anna Meriano’s This Is How We Fly is an edgy story about the value and heartache of relationships, both inside and outside the home. The misunderstood teen is one main theme throughout, but because this story is told through Ellen, the reader instantly experiences pathos as Ellen seeks acceptance both at home and on the Quidditch playing field. Ellen is not athletic, but she more than makes up for it on the field with determination and the willingness to take a beating from the opposing players so that her team can score. While Ellen achieves acceptance from her teammates, she accepts that she no longer fits in within her own family.
Another main theme in This Is How We Fly is sexual and cultural identity. Ellen never had a chance to participate in her deceased mother’s Latina culture and traditions, and having a hyphenated last name adds another turbulent layer to her bicultural identity because she passes as Caucasian. In a story about teens on the verge of adulthood, sexuality naturally plays a pivotal role, such as Melissa sorting through her confusing love relationships and Ellen crushing on a boy from an opposing Quidditch team.
Meriano expertly captures that young-adult vibe and language, and readers of all ages can appreciate the realistic emotions and difficulties in navigating evolving relationships within a blended family. Ellen finds purpose and self-worth once she starts playing Quidditch in earnest, with each practice session and tournament filling her with confidence and camaraderie.
Readers do not have to be Harry Potter fans or know anything about Quidditch to appreciate the imagery of the overall game. As a beater on the playing field, Ellen is constantly attacked as she defends her team from the bludgers. At home, Ellen feels attacked when her dad and stepmother seemingly form a united front against her, leaving her constantly on the defensive, and when Xiumiao ghosts her over the summer, Ellen feels the punishing blow of rejection.
By the end of summer, Ellen discovers that both Quidditch and life can be intensely physical and emotional, in terms of experiencing teamwork, conflicting personalities, crippling defeat, and the euphoric high of success.
Anna Meriano grew up in Houston, Texas, with an older brother and a younger brother but (tragically) no sisters. She graduated from Rice University with a degree in English and earned her MFA in creative writing, with an emphasis in writing for children, from the New School in New York. She has taught creative writing and high-school English and works as a writing tutor. Meriano is also the author of the Love Sugar Magic series.