Storytime with Sophie: Why We Fly

Why+We+Fly+is+a+young+adult+novel+about+cheerleading+and+social+activism.+It+can+bring+about+important+discussions%2C+and+can+be+found+at+Barnes+and+Noble.+

Logan Cogley

Why We Fly is a young adult novel about cheerleading and social activism. It can bring about important discussions, and can be found at Barnes and Noble.

Why we Fly is a cheerleading novel at surface, but also discusses social issues and political changes. The young adult and 320 page novel was released on Oct. 5 by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones. 

The book uses a dual perspective format, with each chapter surrounding either the perspective of Elanor (Leni) or Chanel (Nelly). This layout helps to show exactly what each girl is thinking and how they feel about whatever is going on. One chapter will be entirely first person of Leni and what’s going on with her, the switch to Nelly. This format can sometimes be hard to follow if readers do not notice whose chapter it is at the beginning. 

The book covers the girls senior year and their journey to Nationals for their schools cheerleading squad. Nelly is very uptight and a perfectionist who tends to be on the abrasive side, and is used to being in her older sister’s shadow- at school and home. Her best friend, and the other perspective, Leni is recovering from a concussion that left her unable to cheer for a year. Simultaneously, Leni is dating Three, who is the school quarterback and under immense pressure from his parents as well.  

The beginning of the novel is somewhat hard to get into, with the reader immediately thrown into a scene without any background knowledge. As a reader, I felt the need to make sure I wasn’t reading a sequel after reading the first chapter and being left confused. The book is very fast-paced, taking place over the course of a school year. 

A very unlikeable attribute of the book is its dialogue. This book is a victim of the, “adults trying to sound like teenagers” syndrome. In which, the way teenagers talk is grossly inaccurate. The way the teenagers talk is sometimes too formal and seems unnatural, or includes cringy terms that most teenagers do not use in a speaking setting, (“stan”, “Dope, sis!”, “like a GIF”)

The book discusses activism and the theme of athletes kneeling at sports. The topic is explored in an appropriate way, but sometimes the information leading up to the activism seems somewhat forced. At times, it seems like the authors were trying too hard. For example, Nelly interacts with a queer student who is described as wearing a graphic tee about being a lesbian, and receiving little other details about her as a character besides her sexuality. 

At one point the girls go to a cookout with some of the football team, in which they learn from Three’s aunt the impact kneeling can have. However, the author describes each Leni as  “Her mouth drops open, and she stares at Aunt Rhonda with glitter in her eyes like she just found a unicorn.” The way the adult authors perceive political and social issues differs greatly from their teenage demographic, and the activism shown in the book is presented from a more performative lens than in real life. 

However, one strength of this book is that the characters are relatable, and in many ways understandable. The dual perspective allows readers the opportunity to really understand what motivates Nelly and Leni. Sometimes their actions or thoughts may be perceived as selfish, but after reading their perspective, it usually gives readers into what was really going on. 

The girls go through problems that high schoolers can relate to- athletic injuries, scholarship and college worries, and dissipating friendships. The teenagers in the book do respond to situations somewhat realistically while dealing with these problems. 

Online this novel was described as a “must read for teenagers and adults alike.” A statement that most readers would disagree with. Why we Fly isn’t bad, but it’s not a must-read, and theoretically could allow for important conversations and an interesting dive into the psyche of two teenage girls.