Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

When Elephants Fly

Title: When Elephants Fly
Author: Nancy Richardson Fischer
Type: Fiction
Genre: Young Adult, Adventure
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date published: September 4th 2018
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 400
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Rating: 5/5

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.


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I’m literally lost for words. When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer was truly a page-turner, that left me smiling and crying and everything in between. I know my review won’t do this book justice, but if I could, I’d give this book six out of five, eleven out of ten.

With such a unique plotline, Nancy Richardson Fischer covers so many topics honestly and beautifully. It tackles so many serious issues that not only cover the treatment of animals, but mental illness and family as well.

Lily is unlike any character I’ve met. She’s smart, determined, and fearful for her life. Having almost been killed at the age of seven by her schizophrenic mother, Lily is worried that she’ll end up just like her. She does everything in her power to avoid triggering the illness, even when she realizes that the odds are stacked against her.

But after witnessing an elephant calf, Swifty, almost being killed by her own mother, Lily finds herself deeply connected to the calf. Her mission to save Swifty soon takes her on a road trip that results in her sacrificing all she has and leads her on a journey of self-discovery to finding what matters most to her.

This was my first time reading a book that tackles schizophrenia, and Fischer didn’t shy away from the cold hard truth. All of Lily’s fears and thoughts are revealed as she spirals into the inevitable condition. It was so raw and clear, and watching the illness manifest in Lily felt so real. While she recognizes that no two mental illnesses are the same, Fischer is able to write a story about mental health in a respectful and truthful way.

I loved the book so much for its originality, but also for its ability to draw readers in. Each character was so well thought out, with their own backstories and subplots so perfectly interwoven in the novel. Fischer’s writing and portrayal of the characters truly tug on readers’ hearts from the get-go.

Never have I felt so much love and passion for an animal like Swifty. Whenever there was Swifty, I would be filled with smiles or tears. Swifty, herself, was a rightful character in the book, and I loved that. While initially, Lily saw Swifty as no more than just an animal looking for love, she finds the little elephant growing on her to become someone very meaningful to her.

“Swifty has taught me that it’s not how long I live as me, it’s about how I live that matters.”

And the character development is beautiful. In the span of 400 pages, Lily transforms from a fearful teenager afraid to experience life into a force to be reckoned with. From the very start, you’re cheering her on as she goes on her journey to find out what matters most to her.

I’d buy a stack of these and make all my friends read it. Because Swifty and Tiger just deserve that much love ❤

Thank you Harlequin Teen and Netgalley for providing such a wonderful ARC. I am truly grateful for the opportunity. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

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