Cover Image: Why We Fly

Why We Fly

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Member Reviews

Excellent. This book is absolutely and utterly excellent and I wish every single person would read this. Thought revocing and beautifully written, this has become one of my favourites!
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I really enjoyed this book and thought it was relevant to current discussions that teens have. I appreciated how religion was handled in this book, as I thought it was done very well.
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Oof, this is a gut punch of a book, that tackles not only how racism affects high school athletes but also how relationships fade away as graduation and college loom nearer.

Eleanor "Leni" Greenberg and Chanel "Nelly" Irons are best friends and members of their high school's competitive cheerleading team. In the summer leading up to their senior year, Nelly is off at a prestigious cheer camp while Leni is stuck in their Georgia town, undergoing physical therapy in order to clear herself to get back to cheerleading after her second and more serious concussion. It's at PT that Leni runs into Three, the handsome school quarterback who's looking to break records in his senior year and get recruited by a top tier footballing school. His parents are notorious for shopping him around to scouts, after having more or less successfully done the same for his three older brothers.

After Leni offers to give Three a ride home, he asks her to start working out with him. Their workouts lead to an easy friendship and more. Nelly, on returning from cheer camp, is not pleased at what she sees as a distraction from the girls' plan to focus on cheer so they can both get into colleges with good business schools. Smart, ambitious Nelly has her sights on UPenn or Cornell. Leni's grades have gone down sharply since her concussions, but the girls are hoping that a good showing at the cheerleading nationals will make up for that. But when the more laidback Leni gets elected captain of the cheer squad over no-nonsense Nelly, a seemingly unshakable wedge is driven between the girls that could change their relationship forever.

Oh, man, I really felt for Nelly throughout this book, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. While I'm neither as ambitious or organized, I'm definitely as bossy, if only because I hate when groups waste time hemming and hawing over what they could be doing instead of actually doing (my take-charge attitude greatly irritates the passive-aggressive, ofc.) When Nelly's the only person singled out for punishment after the squad takes a knee to protest racism, I felt that personally. Furthermore, I loved how this book unabashedly points out how Black girls and women are the least protected segment of society, even with Nelly's amazing parents in her corner! Speaking of whom, I loled at the car scene towards the end of the book. Poor Nelly. But I'm glad they busted her before her recreational activities became the problem they were clearly starting to be.

Leni was also a sympathetic protagonist, and certainly more so than Three. I get that she wasn't technically his girlfriend, but Bull was way out of line in saying that she couldn't claim to be broken up with either. Idk, maybe that's young people for you, but IMO if someone doesn't want to be as intensely close as they used to be previously, whether in friendly or romantic fashion, that's a breakup. What I did appreciate about Leni's story -- besides the excellent and honestly quite frightening details of the aftermath of her concussions -- was how she learned both the difference between a movement and a moment, and how to be an accomplice instead of just an ally.

It did make me sad that <font color="#ffffff">Leni showed more interest in reconciling with Three than Nelly towards the end</font>, but in all honesty, I'm glad that everyone came out the other side of this a better person. The best YA literature, to me, is when kids fuck up but learn to do better. Why We Fly depicts all that and more, capturing perfectly the bittersweetness of senior year as kids strive to make the best of that springboard year to adulthood, while tackling also the very real issues of racism, sexism and privilege in America in a highly believable manner.

Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal was published October 5 2021 by Sourcebooks Fire and is available from all good booksellers, including <a href="https://bookshop.org/a/15382/9781492678922">Bookshop!</a>
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The concept of this book (and the previous work from these two authors) was enough to make me want to read it, but it fell flat.
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This duo of authors also worked together on I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, which received a lot of praise. I would recommend this book to somewhat more mature YA readers, because as you can tell from perusing the Goodreads reviews, some readers were left unsatisfied by the narrative arc, which was (intentionally) anticlimactic. However, this structure suited the content of the story quite well; the two main characters spend their senior year reflecting on a (somewhat impulsive) protest action from the fall football season, dealing with the consequences of that protest, and learning a lot about activism and how they can best work that into their lives going forward. Wrapped up in all that is conflict between the two best friends, a romantic plot for one of the two girls, and though it rang true for me and felt emotionally realistic, I can see where younger YA audiences might not relate so well because it does not have a “happy” ending necessarily. I would absolutely recommend it though! I love that the co-authorship dynamic has worked out so well for these women.
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In Australia we don't have quite the same cheerleading or football culture as they do in US High Schools, but that's not to say that this book won't resonate with teens here.  Yes the main characters are cheerleaders, and football stars, but the essence of the story is more universal.  This is a story about that transitioning from high school to the wider world, and a time when teens start to follow their dreams, find their passion, question their futures and maybe their voice. Sometimes friendships can grow and change together, and sometimes they won't.
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I kept waiting for something to happen but I’m nearly 20% in and I’m still bored. It’s not what I expected. I’m giving it 3 stars and the benefit of the doubt. There are too many books out there for me to continue reading something I’m not enjoying, but it’s not bad per se, just not for me.
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A YA book on the lives of two friends, Eleanor and Chanel.  The girls have been friends for life and remain close.  It is the typical high school tale.  Classes, sports, dating and the family mix.  It was well written and you could see the characters develop but there was nothing new in the book.  I gave it a three based totally on that - nothing out of the ordinary.
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Loved this one, and the dual narrative in particular.  The only miss for me is that it didn't delve much into WHY the athletes were kneeling.  Feels like a teaching moment, missed.  I'll still be adding this title to my library however, as I think it is a great jumping off point for parents and teachers to have further discussions.
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With Why We Fly, much like they did with their debut, I'm Not Dying With You Tonight, Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal showcase their knack for writing timely, thought-provoking books on social justice and race relations in America. Both these books are quick reads, but they're necessary conversation starters, especially with how they center youth.

This book focuses on Chanel and Eleanor, high school cheerleaders and best friends, who hope to make it to cheer Nationals. Between the two of them, they are also navigating college apps, friendship, romance, substance use, and recovering from a severe concussion. At the first football game of their senior year, the cheer team decides to take a knee during the national anthem following the lead of an NFL player (and alumnus of their high school), Cody Knight. And suddenly, this cheer team is at the heart of national discourse, with some athletes under greater scrutiny than others.

Each of the characters, primary and secondary, felt incredibly believable. The protagonists and Three (Eleanor's love interest) were wonderfully flawed, and I appreciated how the authors explored each character's relationship to the fallout of kneeling with nuance. I especially enjoyed Eleanor's exploration of her privilege and conversations with Three's aunt Rhonda (the coolest) and her rabbi about allyship.

"'An ally supports a cause without suffering any consequences for their actions. But an accomplice takes the hits along with the people they're trying to support.'"

Because this is a relatively short book, I felt some ideas and relationships didn't get enough consideration. But overall, the book is well-written and compelling, showcasing the ties between sports and activism through great characters.
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Wasn't what I was expecting, but was enjoyable. Quick read, will recommend if someone's looking for books involving cheerleading. Apart from that, not exactly high on my list of recommendations.
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Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for an advanced copy of Why We Fly. 

Best friends Eleanor and Chanel are ready to start their senior year. Chanel is looking forward to being named captain of the cheer team while Eleanor is hoping to receive medical clearance to resume cheering following a concussion. 

When the cheer team decides to kneel during the national anthem in support of a school alum, it gets them plenty of attention, but not all of it is positive. The consequences are not the same for the girls either. (Eleanor is white, Chanel is Black.)

While I enjoyed the book and the dual narrative, in particular, I felt that it missed the opportunity to really focus on WHY athletes are kneeling. It was briefly explained, but it wasn't really the focus of the book. I felt like a teachable moment was missed. I still recommend it for middle and high school readers, but parents and teachers may want to add their own teaching during or after reading.
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Why We Fly by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal was a book that was REALLY easy to sell me on reading. You see, when a book combines themes of sports and activism, I am absolutely on board to pick it up. And so, I was really excited to read Why We Fly and fall into the dual narratives of Chanel and Eleanor. As it turns out, this book didn’t quite hit as much as I had wanted it to.

Why We Fly opens summer before senior year. Eleanor or Lenie as she is referred to in the book is going through physical therapy after suffering two concussions while cheerleading. She is hoping to be cleared to come back to the team after being sidelined for a year. While in physical therapy she meets Three, the quarterback, in the parking lot and the two form a romantic relationship. Chanel, or Nelly, as she is referred to is spending her summer at an elite cheer camp. Nelly is driven and a natural leader. Lenie and Nelly are the best of friends.

That is, until Lenie is chosen to be cheer captain over Nelly. This starts a rift between Lenie and Nelly. The two continue to grow apart. At this time, a famous football player begins kneeling to protest racial injustice — the player isn’t Kapernick, but clearly modeled after him – right down to the initials. Lenie is struck by this.

And so, after a conversation about these actions the cheerleaders decide to take a knee at the next game during the anthem. This ends up having consequences for the team and specifically for one cheerleader that is not Lenie. Nelly, FYI, is doing her level best to achieve all the things. As well as to be selected for a prestigious program before college.

Overall, Why We Fly was not exactly what I had expected. It feels like there’s so much going on in this short book which is fine. I would have liked it more if this book was more tightly focused. Or if it had really leaned into certain events more. I felt like this book was very surface when I wanted depth. However, maybe that’s because I am evolving as a reader. I do think maybe Why We Fly would work well for a younger audience and subjectively it wasn’t for me and THAT IS FINE. I am not at all the intended audience.
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When the cheerleading team decided to take a knee at the first football game of the season, best friends Eleanor and Chanel had no idea the fallout that would happen. 

This book was incredible and really took a deep look into friendship, privilege and race. This one was so interesting to see each girl’s viewpoint and how their backgrounds led to them being affected in different ways. I loved that this was told in dual POVs because it really allowed me to understand what was going on in each girl’s head. I’ve heard great things about Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal’s previous book, and after reading this one, I definitely	want to read more by them!

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the advanced copy.
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Why We Fly is a fascinating look at privilege and the lengths people have it will go to keep it. It never gets preachy, but is unflinchingly honest. The character development and their struggles across the board were captivating. The writing is terrific, and the multiple narrators add important perspective. A must-have for both HS and public libraries.
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Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have friendship that lends itself very well to a co-authored book. Their second collaboration together, Why We Fly addresses racism and female empowerment.
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When we fly is a book about being a teenager and trying to hold everything in your life together. There are Many things that this book talks about friendship, about school, and how people treat you different because of how you look. I like how in When We Fly talks about the two different side where one person can be seen as the hero while another person who does the same thing can be seen as the villain. I also like how the book talks about just how hard cheer can be and how dangerous it can be. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.
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This a book for the times.  It’s about friendship and trying to figure out what you want to do in the world.  Nelly has a plan; she always has a plan. Leni has been recovering from a second concussion and hasn’t been herself. As members of the competition cheer squad, they all decided to kneel during the national anthem in support of a former student, now professional football player.  After the second time, the team is banished from the field for future national anthems.  Only one of the team members is suspended, Nelly.  Nelly and Leni have been best friends since grade school and the suspension and Leni becoming captain over Nelly has fractured their relationship.  As the year moves on, the team competes in the national cheer championship, new friendships and relationships are formed and changed.  Leni has things to figure out and Nelly jumps into college prep. I wish I had the drive that Nelly has.  I enjoyed this book.
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Why We Fly is a very timely novel that can resonate well for both teens and adults. After a professional athlete kneels during the national anthem - Eleanor and Chanel's high school cheerleading squad choose to do their own peaceful protest and take a knee before a football game. But the aftermath and ramifications of their decisions do not fall equally on the two young women. Both Eleanor and Chanel have their flaws and don't always make the smartest decisions or always fight for the right reasons - but they each learn and do grow from their experiences. This is a very approachable social justice novel for teens- definitely recommend. Looking forward to reading more from these two authors. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book.
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I really appreciate the message that Why We Fly is putting out there. The girls made a split second decision to protest and support a fellow athlete by bending a knee during the national anthem. Then came the unexpected consequences, harder on some than others. I loved both Leni and Nelly as protagonists, but was a little saddened and disappointed in the way that relationships developed in the story. The girls' friendship fell apart so easily, and the romance with Three was so messy. Understandably realistic for high schoolers, but not the most fun to read, in my opinion. I did enjoy watching both girls grow personally by the end of the book.
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