When Elephants Fly

400p. Harlequin Teen. Sept. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335012364.
Gr 9 Up—This is as much a story about mental health as it is about compassion and evolution. Lily Decker survived her mother's schizophrenia-induced attempt at filicide as a young child. The fear of also having mental health issues shapes the rest of her life and her relationship with her father. She is a high school senior set on living as unremarkably as possible, devoid of stress, risks, and stimulation—anything that might exacerbate her symptoms. Despite avoiding excitement as much as she can, her unintentionally well-received articles on the new baby elephant at the local zoo put her at the center of unwanted drama. The baby is rejected by its mother and per contract, must be given up to the circus owning the father elephant. Lily is caught in the middle with the opportunity to write on an interesting subject and the conflicts of having wild animals in captivity. This, and the issues of the people she meets, are the backdrop of her dramatic, life-changing mental crisis. This novel manages to cover a wide range of topics: mental health, genetics, family trauma and the scars it can inflict, friendship dynamics, and animal rights. The narrative is occasionally scattered with flashbacks and Lily's internal dialogue, which is an effective storytelling technique showcasing her increasingly unsteady mental health.
VERDICT A recommended addition to most YA collections.

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