When Elephants Fly

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When Elephants Fly

by Nancy Richardson Fischer


Publication date:  September 4, 2018
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Don’t miss one of the most heartwarming young adult novels of the year. Perfect for fans of Water for ElephantsWonder and All the Bright PlacesWhen Elephants Fly shows that how we choose to live our lives matters, and that there are some battles worth fighting even if it means losing yourself. 

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.

Genetics are not on Lily’s side. When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf,

Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.


High schooler Lily is an aspiring journalist and stress-free seeker. After having her mother try to kill her at age seven due to her battle with schizophrenia, Lily is determined to not follow in her footsteps by tip-toeing through life in the most nondescript way. Not only do Lily and her best friend, Sawyer, have the typical pressures of high school to navigate through, but they each have secrets they can only trust with one another.  While working her internship at the local newspaper, Lily finds herself in the midst of an elephant scandal that will change her life. Battling choosing between right and wrong, truth and lies, and stable and mental instability, Lily learns that sometimes the most unexpected friendship comes in the largest package- with a trunk and two floppy ears.

With mental illness being a topic near and dear to my heart, this novel was an automatic “win” for me. Couple this with the social issue of whether the circus and zoo are harmful/helpful to animals- this turned into a slam dunk. I started reading When Elephants Fly one morning before work, and became completely engrossed in Lily’s story. Nancy Richardson Fischer has a way of developing her characters that makes the reader not only relate to them, but become them. The inner conflict Lily went through battling her acceptance of her impeding mental illness, as well as the realizations she came to in regards to her relationship with her father left me feeling physically drained. As she discovered who she is, and how she defines her own future, I found myself cheering out loud. Richardson Fischer seamlessly addressed all of the important topics young adults think about and relate to.

Lily, Sawyer, Owen, and Swifty have left such an impression on me. My only regret is that they aren’t real.

Thank you, BookSparks, for this novel in exchange for an honest review.


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About the author

Nancy Richardson Fischer is a graduate of Cornell University, a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles to her credit, including Star Wars titles for Lucas Film and numerous athlete autobiographies, such as Julie Krone, Bela Karolyi and Monica Seles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

For more about Nancy, check her website HERE!





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