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Almost Flying

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In this unabashedly queer middle grade debut, a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her new bestie. Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But whe In this unabashedly queer middle grade debut, a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her new bestie. Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he's engaged, Dalia's schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia's future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding--meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she's been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa's girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa's secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.


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In this unabashedly queer middle grade debut, a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her new bestie. Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But whe In this unabashedly queer middle grade debut, a week-long amusement park road trip becomes a true roller coaster of emotion when Dalia realizes she has more-than-friend feelings for her new bestie. Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he's engaged, Dalia's schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia's future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding--meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she's been planning for months. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa's girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa's secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

30 review for Almost Flying

  1. 5 out of 5

    tessie

    hello!! i love this book!! i very very rarely give middle grade 5 stars because (because of the simplicity) even though it’s my favourite age range of books (because of the simplicity) BUT this book!! is almost definitely my favourite middle grade book ever and i love it ok so!! this book is about dalia who finds out her dad is engaged to a woman named vanessa and!! things lead to her having to go on a road trip with her future step sister and her friend from swim team!! first of all, it made me hello!! i love this book!! i very very rarely give middle grade 5 stars because (because of the simplicity) even though it’s my favourite age range of books (because of the simplicity) BUT this book!! is almost definitely my favourite middle grade book ever and i love it ok so!! this book is about dalia who finds out her dad is engaged to a woman named vanessa and!! things lead to her having to go on a road trip with her future step sister and her friend from swim team!! first of all, it made me Feel Things - i do not have a Great relationship with my dad but when i was younger every morning before school we would watch videos of water slides together so yes this book made me feel the Emotions i loved the characters in this so much!!! all of them!! and there was a kinda found family thing going on in here which i loved!! this is the type of book you can just TELL was written by a queer person because of the way the queer rep was written. there are so so many queer characters and i loved that this was a middle grade about a girl with a crush on a girl not having a crisis about her sexuality necessarily!! she just knows she likes this girl and that’s fine i also just loved the plot itself - rollercoaster road trip. yes. it was weirdly fun to read about all the different rollercoasters and theme parks and descriptions of the food and stuff idk but it was GREAT anyway!! if you like middle grade at all you should read this book!! actually even if you don’t you should still read this book rep: Jewish sapphic mc, Persian sapphic li, Indian gay side character, mlm side character, bisexual side character, wlw side character, Jewish side character

  2. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    I've been tearing through the contemporary sapphic YA flood of books released recently and when purchasing an audiobook on audible I was recommended this, 'Almost Flying' a queer middle-grade debut from Jake Maia Arlow and I thought why not, I'm already to old to be reading YA so why not fully commit to my apparent endless adolescence. I also gotta say that I love that we have a book about queer middle schoolers, we all deserve representation in media. Dalia is thirteen, she has a pretty achieva I've been tearing through the contemporary sapphic YA flood of books released recently and when purchasing an audiobook on audible I was recommended this, 'Almost Flying' a queer middle-grade debut from Jake Maia Arlow and I thought why not, I'm already to old to be reading YA so why not fully commit to my apparent endless adolescence. I also gotta say that I love that we have a book about queer middle schoolers, we all deserve representation in media. Dalia is thirteen, she has a pretty achievable dream, to ride a roller coaster this summer but even that seems like it's not going to happen until an unfortunate turn of events in Dalia's view at least gives her an opportunity to make her wish come true. Her dad is getting engaged and she is going to have a step sister, who just so happens to be going on an amusement park road trip and Dalia gets to go along with her brand new friend Rani who just came into her life after Dalia lost her best friend to the popular girls at her middle school. It's a really sweet story with some heavy elements.. divorce and parental abandonment looming large but of course the main event are the possible feelings Dalia is having for her new friend, and her relationship with Alexa, her new stepsister and her father who she might be losing to her stepmom. It was just a wonderful experience overall, the main four characters are so sweet and so queer, the setting is perfect, solid representation, the angst is just right for a middle grade story and it's very genuine and true to life. Go read it, or as in my case, listen to it! I also must mention Em Grosland who narrated the book, take a bow lady, you nailed it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    It's hard to know where to begin listing the things that endeared me to ALMOST FLYING, Jake Maia Arlow's ever-so-touching middle grade debut. I devoured this one, sucked in from the very first page by both the premise and the voice... oh, and the roller coasters. Like most thirteen-year-olds, Dalia hasn't quite figured out who she is yet, and her dad isn't making things any easier. He's just told her that he has a girlfriend, and that the two of them are getting engaged. It's all pretty awful fo It's hard to know where to begin listing the things that endeared me to ALMOST FLYING, Jake Maia Arlow's ever-so-touching middle grade debut. I devoured this one, sucked in from the very first page by both the premise and the voice... oh, and the roller coasters. Like most thirteen-year-olds, Dalia hasn't quite figured out who she is yet, and her dad isn't making things any easier. He's just told her that he has a girlfriend, and that the two of them are getting engaged. It's all pretty awful for Dalia, except that her soon-to-be-stepsister, college-aged Alexa, is embarking on a theme park road trip with a friend, and Dalia gets sent along for some 'bonding.' The bonding part is every bit as awkward and forced as Dalia imagines it might be, but at least she gets to bring along her new friend, Rani. And at least she'll finally be able to try out the roller coasters she loves so much but has only ever experienced through online videos. I love road trip novels, and I adore theme parks, so put those two things together, especially at a time when real-world travel isn't an option, and I'm hooked one hundred percent. You can smell the popcorn and sunscreen and funnel cake, hear the shrieks of the riders, and feel the lazy, sweaty summer boredom of waiting in line for the park's biggest attraction. Dalia's delightfully nerdy coaster obsession just shines on every page. And so does her voice. I have such a soft spot for voicey novels, especially when the narrator is quiet and unsure on the outside, but screaming on the inside. The exquisite pain and tenderness and uncertainty of Dalia's first crush - made more challenging by the fact that it's on Rani, with whom she's sharing a motel room - is so beautifully drawn, and the family she ultimately finds will make your heart sing. The scenes where the young adult characters offer support, wisdom, and encouragement to Dalia as she realizes she has feelings for another girl just about broke me, they were so beautiful. I loved this one from beginning to end. Huge thanks to Jake Maia Arlow, Dial Books, and NetGalley for the advanced copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lena Kogan

    I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of this book... I only wish this book was out already so I could tell each and every one of my friends to read it (which I will be doing, as soon as it's published)! Imagine yourself as a middle schooler, and imagine middle-school you being wrapped up in a book that tells you that all of the miraculous and tragic and confusing and wonderful feelings that you are feeling all at once, your rollercoaster of emotions, is all going to be okay. In fa I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of this book... I only wish this book was out already so I could tell each and every one of my friends to read it (which I will be doing, as soon as it's published)! Imagine yourself as a middle schooler, and imagine middle-school you being wrapped up in a book that tells you that all of the miraculous and tragic and confusing and wonderful feelings that you are feeling all at once, your rollercoaster of emotions, is all going to be okay. In fact, it's something to celebrate! Just like a Coney Island rollercoaster, this book is thrilling, exhilarating, and will have you laughing and screaming all at the same time. Jake's writing is somehow both nostalgic and ahead of its time. The characters envelop the reader as they tumble through a journey of love, friendships, heartbreaks, funnel cakes, and family, all the while, taking you in as a family member of their own. I cannot wait to see what she writes next!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    March 09, 2021: found family, first queer crush, and roller-coasters? OKAY, sounds perfect.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nay Keppler

    WOWOWOWOW. PERFECT middle grade fiction. I cannot believe this is a debut. I felt all the feels. The style of writing just transported me back in time to being 12/13 and having my first girl crush, and having somewhat older friends walk me through it without making me feel like an alien. This book was so sweet, and managed to make me care about roller coasters for the first time ever. I’ve been slacking on reading kiddo books this year, but this one makes me want to get back to ‘em!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens

    Dalia learns her dad has a secret girlfriend (make that fiance) with a college-aged daughter. How will the soon-to-be-stepsisters bond? On a weeklong road trip to various amusement parks, accompanied by Dalia's new friend (maybe crush) Rani. Dalia's obsessed with roller coasters, but she's never ridden one. Yeah, LOTS of stuff could go wrong on this trip. Dalia learns her dad has a secret girlfriend (make that fiance) with a college-aged daughter. How will the soon-to-be-stepsisters bond? On a weeklong road trip to various amusement parks, accompanied by Dalia's new friend (maybe crush) Rani. Dalia's obsessed with roller coasters, but she's never ridden one. Yeah, LOTS of stuff could go wrong on this trip.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    Lots of driving today led me to finish the audiobook of Almost Flying by and this middle grade novel was overflowing with heart. First crushes, a blended family, and a roller coaster road trip - starring a cast of lovable, authentic characters. 5-star #mglit!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alex George

    Adorably awkward and disastrously gay love story that I wish I could have had access to when I was younger. WATCH my full review here hahahahah I am Online and Off The Rails;;;;; https://twitter.com/undeadkazoo/statu... Adorably awkward and disastrously gay love story that I wish I could have had access to when I was younger. WATCH my full review here hahahahah I am Online and Off The Rails;;;;; https://twitter.com/undeadkazoo/statu...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christina Li

    The absolute sweetest, most heartfelt book ever about queer tweens, found family, friendship, and rollercoasters. It's about the thrill of your first crush and also the simultaneous thrill of getting to go on a rollercoaster road trip with them and about the ups and downs of being in middle school, sorting out friendships, and falling in love. And I'd recommend it to anyone. <3 The absolute sweetest, most heartfelt book ever about queer tweens, found family, friendship, and rollercoasters. It's about the thrill of your first crush and also the simultaneous thrill of getting to go on a rollercoaster road trip with them and about the ups and downs of being in middle school, sorting out friendships, and falling in love. And I'd recommend it to anyone. <3

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Dalia's parents have divorced recently, and she hasn't seen her mother much, but she and her father have a cozy existence. She's on the swim team, which helps pass the time, especially since she has had a falling out with her longtime best friend Abby, whom she felt left her for another friend. Through swim, she's met Rani, who has recently move to Long Island from Minnesota. Rani's family is better off than Dalia's, but the two have fun hanging out, watching vide E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Dalia's parents have divorced recently, and she hasn't seen her mother much, but she and her father have a cozy existence. She's on the swim team, which helps pass the time, especially since she has had a falling out with her longtime best friend Abby, whom she felt left her for another friend. Through swim, she's met Rani, who has recently move to Long Island from Minnesota. Rani's family is better off than Dalia's, but the two have fun hanging out, watching videos of roller coasters (Dalia's obsession) and make up tutorials (Rani's). When Dalia's father tells her that has been dating Vanessa and wants her to meet his new girlfriend. The surprise and shock don't end there; Vanessa has a college aged daughter, and the relationship is more serious than Dalia is first led to believe. Alexa has been fighting a lot with her mother, and is planning a road trip to amusement parks with her friend Dhruv. Vanessa doesn't like this idea, but feels better about it if Dalia would go with Alexa, and bring a friend. Rani's mother is fine with it, and soon the group is hitting various amusement parks and staying overnight in motels, checking in with parents by video chat every night. Dalia has never been on an actual roller coaster; she's only watched videos. Luckily, she does enjoy riding them, so that part of the trip is a big success as she uses her previous knowledge of different types of roller coasters to educate her travel companions. Less success are the relationships. Alexa is angry but hiding the fact that she has a girlfriend, Sara, who soon joins the group. Dalia overhears Dhruv talk about his boyfriend and is surprised he is gay. To further complicate matters, Dalia has wondered for a long time if she likes Rani as more than a friend. How do you tell a friend that you have a crush on her? Sara is very helpful and understanding, and picks up on the clues that Dalia likes Rani, and gives her good advice. Alexa makes some unwanted comments, which increases the tension between the two potential step sisters. When Dalia kisses Rani and doesn't get quite the reaction she expects, she worries that she might have made a mistake. Will Dalia be able to survive her summer of actual and emotional roller coasters? Strengths: I'm officially declaring a lack of amusement parks in middle grade literature! Not all middle school students are lucky enough to go, and I know it was a huge deal the first time I went with my church group. It's a rare instance when tweens are allowed to go about on their own, spend some money on food and souvenirs, and reading about different parks (including the nearby Cedar Point!) was very fun. So lets have more of that. I was completely oblivious to the existence of YouTube roller coaster videos. We are seeing more books about parents getting divorced, and blended families getting used to each other, so that was a good aspect of the book. I wish there had been more about swim team! This book also offers a unique story of emerging identity by having three older queer friends to advise Dalia about her crush and also dealing with her feelings. There's also some discussion about the difference in economic backgrounds that Dalia and Rani have, and the arc of the relationship with Abby was interesting and a bit surprising. Weaknesses: While the trip and the roller coasters were interesting, a bit more of a plot would have been nice. Most of the plots concerned themselves with relationship issues, which is more young adult. I also found it hard to believe that Dalia and Rani were allowed to travel around to amusements parks with two college students! What I really think: There is a fair amount of interesting in LGBTQIA+ stories in my library, so I will definitely buy this, and hope that readers who pick this up for the roller coaster inclusion will find this informative about the LGBTQIA+ as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    roma

    2.5/5 stars, so disappointed since I thought I'd really like it but this was boring and stretched out for 300+ pages despite having no plot whatsoever. rep: jewish lesbian mc, iranian-american li, indian american gay sc, bi/pan sc, jewish sc content warnings: forced outing(not on purpose but still) things i liked: Dalia and Rani have a really sweet friendship/relationship and I love how figuring out one's sexuality is explored! While the word lesbian isn't used on page, there aren't any undertones o 2.5/5 stars, so disappointed since I thought I'd really like it but this was boring and stretched out for 300+ pages despite having no plot whatsoever. rep: jewish lesbian mc, iranian-american li, indian american gay sc, bi/pan sc, jewish sc content warnings: forced outing(not on purpose but still) things i liked: Dalia and Rani have a really sweet friendship/relationship and I love how figuring out one's sexuality is explored! While the word lesbian isn't used on page, there aren't any undertones of self hating and she accepts it as a part of herself and that's always nice to see Dalia has to navigate through a messy friendship breakup that's so realistically and carefully handled. She often thinks about her ex-best friend and had some really complicated fellings that were just so on point I loved it. It's effortlessly diverse and I love the normalization of queer identity; also desi queer rep always warms my heart and made me really happy so kudos for that<3 things i hated: I despised Alexa being an asshole to a 12 year old kid because she's annoyed with her mom. A difficult relationship with your parents is not an excuse to be constantly terrible and snappy towards a child who's clearly not at fault here and it's just so annoying to read. I hate outing plots so much and Alexa, a queer person, basically outs her sister to Rani and that's so easily resolved and forgiven?? If a kid trusts you and who tells you they aren't ready to come out and you make jokes about them kissing their crush in public, you should rethink your entire personality, just saying. Also most of the adults including Dalia and Alexa's parents had no fleshed out personalities tbh. We are told Dalia's dad cares about her and loves her but he acts selfishly throughout the book and it's never called out till the very end and it's so frustrating!! Show me at least some good moments if you want for me to believe they have this amazing relationship. I didn't like it enough to round up to 3 stars and it was pretty boring Thank you to the publisher and edelweiss for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    Almost Flying is such a lovely and honest story. The extreme/hardcore/confusing feelings that come with being a middle schooler are so clear that it made my heart hurt more than once. Grappling with anxiety (without even necessarily knowing what to call it!!) as a young teen is described in a way that was both recognizable and made you feel serious empathy with Dalia, no matter your age. I’m incredibly impressed. I don’t usually move toward middle grade novels, but the complexity and sincerity t Almost Flying is such a lovely and honest story. The extreme/hardcore/confusing feelings that come with being a middle schooler are so clear that it made my heart hurt more than once. Grappling with anxiety (without even necessarily knowing what to call it!!) as a young teen is described in a way that was both recognizable and made you feel serious empathy with Dalia, no matter your age. I’m incredibly impressed. I don’t usually move toward middle grade novels, but the complexity and sincerity that Arlow writes with make the story gripping, unique, and unputdownable. I would recommend this to any human being from middle school grade and beyond.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Words can't describe how happy I am about more queer middle grade fiction. I loved reading about how Dalia was trying to figure out what it means to be a girl with a crush on a girl. I loved feeling like I was a kid at an amusement park again, reading about all the rides. The supporting cast of characters was great! I only wish Rani had been a bit more fleshed out. But a delightful read all around. Words can't describe how happy I am about more queer middle grade fiction. I loved reading about how Dalia was trying to figure out what it means to be a girl with a crush on a girl. I loved feeling like I was a kid at an amusement park again, reading about all the rides. The supporting cast of characters was great! I only wish Rani had been a bit more fleshed out. But a delightful read all around.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris Leonardi

    FANTASTIC! Simply, fantastic. This is a wonderful YA novel/coming of age story that really makes the reader empathize with the main character and get inside their ‘brain.’ So much is tackled here but somehow doesn’t feel as heavy as some of the themes may otherwise dictate. Well done, Jake! I feel that this should be required reading for adolescents/teenagers and their parents!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shaunna

    Such a cute coming out/love story. Oops, I don’t think Dalia would like me calling it cute 😊 Also makes me want to ride some rollercoasters!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I read an ARC of this book in about two sittings and it’s FABULOUS. It has everything both thirteen-year-old me and current me want/need/love in a book. Found family! Swim team! Theme park music! Girls holding hands romantically! This book is a blast and so dang good. Pre-order it for all your friends.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

    Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book. Here's a story that will be an asset to any middle grade collection. I loved so many aspects of it, including family drama, a first crush, a week-long road trip with reluctant participants, and so many fun and cool things to learn about roller coasters. Dalia is horrified when he learns that her dad has a girlfriend, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. She discovers that his new girlfriend has daughter, Alexa, whom she's forc Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book. Here's a story that will be an asset to any middle grade collection. I loved so many aspects of it, including family drama, a first crush, a week-long road trip with reluctant participants, and so many fun and cool things to learn about roller coasters. Dalia is horrified when he learns that her dad has a girlfriend, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. She discovers that his new girlfriend has daughter, Alexa, whom she's forced to meet before she returns to college in the fall. Then it slips that Dalia's dad is actually engaged to Alexa's mom, and the girls are pushed into spending some quality time together before they become a family. When Alexa reluctantly agrees to take Dalia on the road trip she planned with her friend, Dhruv, to visit some amusement parks, Dalia convinces her dad to let her invite her new swim friend, Rani, to join them. Dalia is so pumped to ride her first ever roller coaster, but Alexa makes it clear she's not excited to have her along. As the week progresses, Dalia starts to realize that her feelings for Rani are different than those she has for her best friend, Abby. She also learns that Alexa's girlfriend, Sara, is joining them for part of their adventure, and Dalia starts to wonder how many secrets this road trip can handle before things start to fall apart. What I loved most about this story is the way that Dahlia's first crush slowly develops over the course of the week, and the wide range of emotions that she experiences. I love that she has older teens that are there to support her and model queer relationships for her, yet who also make mistakes in how they handle her secret. There are many different relationships at play in the story that connect and influence each other, and I appreciated the wide range of perspectives. I also really loved how much fun this story was! I laughed at loud as the author described the build up to Dalia's first roller coaster ride, and the group has many moments of truly enjoying the adrenaline and food in the amusement parks. I love a book that centers around a road trip, and so much bonding happened over the course of this trip that wouldn't have been possible without an opportunity to be together without adults for a period of time. I will definitely be adding this book to my collection when it's released in June.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alice Wilder

    Wow wow, I wish I could put this book in the hands of every middle schooler I know. Jake perfectly captures what it’s like to be a sweaty, anxious thirteen year old with a crush. There’s so much to love in this book: the way Jake captures the texting vernacular and internet habits of teens, the heartbreak of losing a best friend, and the pain of knowing that your life is changing in ways you can’t control. As an adult reader, I especially loved the college students in the book— empathetic, imper Wow wow, I wish I could put this book in the hands of every middle schooler I know. Jake perfectly captures what it’s like to be a sweaty, anxious thirteen year old with a crush. There’s so much to love in this book: the way Jake captures the texting vernacular and internet habits of teens, the heartbreak of losing a best friend, and the pain of knowing that your life is changing in ways you can’t control. As an adult reader, I especially loved the college students in the book— empathetic, imperfect young adults who are still figuring things out. I so wish I had read a book like this as a teenager— one that treats being queer as special but not weird. And that shows that it’s okay to be angry with people you love. I want to hug all the characters in the book and I’m so excited for it to be out in the world for more people to love.

  20. 4 out of 5

    lyraand

    (This review is based on an advanced reader's copy.) "Dhruv's been pretty quiet for most of the ride. And when he hopped into the car, he kissed Alexa on the cheek, so maybe they're dating or something. But then, I don't really know how people in college interact. Maybe everyone kisses on the cheek. It could just be the standard greeting." 3.5 stars? I didn't feel as strongly about it as my favorite queer girl middle grades like Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World or Drum Roll, Please, but I think (This review is based on an advanced reader's copy.) "Dhruv's been pretty quiet for most of the ride. And when he hopped into the car, he kissed Alexa on the cheek, so maybe they're dating or something. But then, I don't really know how people in college interact. Maybe everyone kisses on the cheek. It could just be the standard greeting." 3.5 stars? I didn't feel as strongly about it as my favorite queer girl middle grades like Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World or Drum Roll, Please, but I think it's solid and well-written and sweet, and it occasionally made me cry a little. And I did the thing where I was planning to just read for a few minutes and then it turned into a few hours. This book reminded me a little of the movie Eighth Grade and the book To Night Owl from Dogfish (both of which I loved). Some things I really liked: -the main character has a very specific obscure interest (I actually learned a surprising amount about roller coasters from reading this) -the romantic conflict isn't a misunderstanding but a genuine disagreement that they have to work through -there's a really nuanced portrayal of friendship and how it can change over time -a lot of the book is about learning to work through interpersonal conflict in a healthy way, but it doesn't feel didactic or Pollyannaish or glib. I found it interesting that various characters explicitly use the words "gay" and "queer" for themselves, plus the word "nonbinary" for other people, but the words "lesbian" and "bisexual" don't appear in the book at all. Not that anyone is obligated to identify with those labels (or with any labels), of course, but especially since there is a major character who says she's had crushes on boys and girls, I wish the word "bisexual" had at least been mentioned, even if none of the characters identified that way. Rep: sapphic/wlw main character who describes herself as white and Jewish and is implied to be at least somewhat masculine-presenting; sapphic/wlw Persian/Iranian-American love interest; Colombian-American girl who has had crushes on boys and girls and has a girlfriend; Indian-American gay male character. Content notes: Divorce and parental estrangement (kind of de facto due to the parent not staying in touch post-divorce, not involving any big parent/child fight or other incident). Some class anxiety (main character's family is middle- or maybe lower-middle class, love interest's family is wealthy). Not much, it's a pretty wholesome book overall.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    It is 0% a surprise that I would adore a queer, found family-focused, roller coaster road trip middle grade, but I really, really did. I was worried going in about how accurate the coaster parts would feel, but it's so well done. The way Dalia thinks and talks about roller coasters is so much like I did. Just... the history, the stats, the elements, doing research in advance (though she's a little more figure out the plan as you go than I am), keeping her track record (!!), being the one the othe It is 0% a surprise that I would adore a queer, found family-focused, roller coaster road trip middle grade, but I really, really did. I was worried going in about how accurate the coaster parts would feel, but it's so well done. The way Dalia thinks and talks about roller coasters is so much like I did. Just... the history, the stats, the elements, doing research in advance (though she's a little more figure out the plan as you go than I am), keeping her track record (!!), being the one the others turn to about coasters. (Down to talking about Son of Beast while in line for a hybrid, which is hilarious to me.) And it feels very right these days that she's learning so much partially from poring over POV videos. Some things in the parks are simplified for story purposes (like the lack of different lengths of lines for different rows of seats), but that's mostly it. (Also I have Opinions about the trip itinerary, but those are personal, and the choices make sense within the story. (view spoiler)[It makes me a little sad that the very bad things happen at Cedar Point because I want only good things there, but it's the last stop on the outbound direction, so very climax. (hide spoiler)] ) I appreciated Dalia forming a queer found family as she figures out that she's queer and also that what's going on for her is less an identity question (though she hadn't really thought about it before, and it's there) than a question of how she feels about Rani and what she should do about it. I love that the formation of found family is there alongside the really rough formation of legal family but that they aren't entirely different. And that all of that is also with a pretty common MG storyline of a former best friend having new friends and trying to figure out that friendship breakup/change? (view spoiler)[Where that lands, with Abby still mattering and caring and Dalia caring about her, but not so close and different, I appreciate. Because we need those circles of different levels of closeness. And I like Alexa being there, early in college, to say that we need this. (hide spoiler)] Love the support Dalia and Rani get from Dhruv and Sara and David and Alexa (though it takes a long while for Dalia and Alexa to get there because it's so much tied up in other things). I ended up really liking the dynamics between the college students and the 8th graders. I've read two MG books in a row that have featured parents not behaving well and their kids also not responding well but trying to communicate very legitimate grievances, and I like seeing that. (view spoiler)[ I do have some money-related questions -- Dalia was worried about asking her dad if they could go to an amusement park because of the money for that, but he paid for her to go on this whole trip. Did Vanessa help? Did he think the bonding time for Alexa and Dalia was worth it? Unclear. Kind of disappeared. But Dalia's *relationship* to money didn't, which I appreciate. (hide spoiler)] And a final note: love for El Toro, Boulder Dash, GateKeeper, and Steel Vengeance = good taste, Dalia.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Brown

    Trigger Warnings: mild homophobia. Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow is a contemporary middle grade centered around theme parks and rollercoasters, making it an ideal summer read. It’s summer for thirteen-year-old Dalia and that means spending her days at swim practice, her evenings watching rollercoaster POV videos online, and trying to work up the courage to ask her dad to finally take her to an amusement park so she can ride one of her beloved coasters for real. This summer is hard for Dalia bec Trigger Warnings: mild homophobia. Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow is a contemporary middle grade centered around theme parks and rollercoasters, making it an ideal summer read. It’s summer for thirteen-year-old Dalia and that means spending her days at swim practice, her evenings watching rollercoaster POV videos online, and trying to work up the courage to ask her dad to finally take her to an amusement park so she can ride one of her beloved coasters for real. This summer is hard for Dalia because not only is she dealing with her parents’ fairly recent divorce and the total absence of her mother, but her best friend Abby has started hanging out with the popular girls at school and no longer wants to hang out with her. The one bright spot is the arrival of Rani, a new girl on her swim team who quickly becomes Dalia’s new BFF. Then, her dad drops a bombshell: not only does he now have a girlfriend, but he’s also been seeing her for six months and they‘ve recently got engaged. Suddenly, Dalia faces meeting a whole new family she never wanted, including college-age Alexa – Dalia’s soon-to-be stepsister. Their parents want them to spend time together but Alexa has a week-long road trip planned to visit theme parks with friends from college, however, after a flash of inspiration, Dalia finds herself along for the trip. She’s finally getting to visit many of the parks she’s only seen in videos (and she’s getting to bring Rani along too) but she’s also stuck with Alexa who is irritated at having to “babysit” her new baby sister for a week. As the trip progresses, Dalia finds her connection to Rani growing in new and confusing ways that she doesn’t quite understand. Will Alexa and her friends be there to offer her the advice and support she needs, or are they destined to hate one another forever? Almost Flying is a fun story that combined many of my favorite elements including road trips, first love, and theme parks, so it was almost inevitably going to be a winner for me right from the first page. Dalia is a great main character and while the others are somewhat two-dimensional (for instance Rani is rich, athletic, and loves makeup – we learn little more about her except that she has moved from Minnesota) this doesn’t detract from the story. The parks and rides have been well researched, and reading about the trip made me want to recreate it myself, although I might skip the morning funnel cakes! The LGBTQ elements in Almost Flying were strong with not only Dalia herself who is starting to question her sexuality, but lots of representation from the supporting cast as well. There is some mild homophobia that is hinted at but never explored in a deep way, and one incident that might be upsetting to anyone who was bullied in middle school however, for the most part, everyone around Dalia is supportive, making this a great first book for those beginning to ask similar to questions to those Dalia finds herself exploring. There were a few events that happened for the sake of the plot that would almost certainly never happen in real life and that did have me raising my eyebrows somewhat. Not least amongst these were the parents of two young teen girls allowing them to take a week-long road trip with some college students they barely even know, and at one point everyone being OK with the two thirteen-year-old girls sharing a room with a male college student. Of course, this is middle-grade fiction so everyone is lovely and nothing untoward happens, but I did find myself questioning the wisdom of this book normalizing such behavior. This was a hugely fun, summery read that made me itch to be back walking around a theme park in the sun with a sugary treat and a bunch of friends. GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Thirteen-year-old Dalia is close to her father, and she thinks they share just about everything. It's a good thing since she hasn't seen her mother in more than a year and the two don't communicate. When he informs her that he has a girlfriend and she later learns that he has been seeing Vanessa for six months, she's understandably distraught and confused. The two announce their plans to marry and urge Dalia and Vanessa's college-age daughter, Alexa, to bond. Doing so is awkward since they seem Thirteen-year-old Dalia is close to her father, and she thinks they share just about everything. It's a good thing since she hasn't seen her mother in more than a year and the two don't communicate. When he informs her that he has a girlfriend and she later learns that he has been seeing Vanessa for six months, she's understandably distraught and confused. The two announce their plans to marry and urge Dalia and Vanessa's college-age daughter, Alexa, to bond. Doing so is awkward since they seem to have little in common and Alexa is just so angry. But as it turns out, they have rollercoasters in common, and their parents decide that Dalia should accompany Alexa on a long-planned road trip from Long Island where they live to various amusement parks. Along for the road are Dhruv, Alexa's college friend, and Rani, Dalia's swim teammate and friend. Dalia dreads the next school year because she doesn't fit in or have any friends, especially since her best friend Abby has dumped her to join the popular crowd. Parts of the trip are awkward and fraught with stress and secrets, but eventually Dalia realizes that she has romantic feelings for Rani and that Alexa and Dhruv are gay. As she's coming to terms with her own identity, Dalia is also learning that it's okay to express her feelings and let her father know that she is disappointed in him for not being honest about his relationship with Vanessa from the beginning. All the characters are well drawn, and the author's descriptions of those huge rollercoasters will leave readers asking for more or shuddering in their chairs in fear. Although the road trip is brief, strong connections are formed as Dalia at first tentatively and then with some assurance reaches out for what she wants. How lovely, surprising, but oh, so necessary to have a middle grade novel in which older gay characters provide guidance for younger ones!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Almost Flying is a diverse and engaging middle grade story (upper MG, I'd say, due to some language). I found Dalia to be a relatable and likable main character, and her narration rings true (though it seemed odd that she consistently used the phrase "on line" instead of "in line"--isn't that a British thing?). The roller-coaster info is lots of fun, too, and not something I've seen a lot of books about. This book fits into a similar niche with Melleby's In the Role of Brie Hutchens..., which I a Almost Flying is a diverse and engaging middle grade story (upper MG, I'd say, due to some language). I found Dalia to be a relatable and likable main character, and her narration rings true (though it seemed odd that she consistently used the phrase "on line" instead of "in line"--isn't that a British thing?). The roller-coaster info is lots of fun, too, and not something I've seen a lot of books about. This book fits into a similar niche with Melleby's In the Role of Brie Hutchens..., which I also read recently. Both are upper-middle-grade stories about queer girls figuring out their identities, which focus on family and friend drama without a super twisty plot but bring some important messages to young queer readers. In the case of Dalia's story, that message is that, especially for queer folks, family isn't just who you're related to, it's who you choose. That's a concept that we've seen regularly in YA books in the last few years, but one that the MG world has been a bit more hesitant to commit to, so I was glad to see it here. There's also the last paragraph of the acknowledgements, which... too true, ha. I really hope Almost Flying is able to reach the audience that needs it, because I think it has the potential to do a lot of good. (Though what is up with all this kidlit lately that blatantly disrespects lifeguards and water safety? Especially with a swimmer MC? Not cool...)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jason Liu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Almost Flying is one of the most unique book that I ever read. I enjoy the coming-of-age, found family, life lessons, and humor in the story. My favorite part is the developing bonds between Dalia and her new stepsister, Alexa, as they talked to each other about their similar backgrounds. Dalia crush on her new friend and swim mate, Rani, was cute and reading Dalia processing and realizing her feeling for her was kinda nice! Love how they became girlfriends at the end! Hope they end up together! Almost Flying is one of the most unique book that I ever read. I enjoy the coming-of-age, found family, life lessons, and humor in the story. My favorite part is the developing bonds between Dalia and her new stepsister, Alexa, as they talked to each other about their similar backgrounds. Dalia crush on her new friend and swim mate, Rani, was cute and reading Dalia processing and realizing her feeling for her was kinda nice! Love how they became girlfriends at the end! Hope they end up together! Also enjoyed the relationship between Dhruv and David & Alexa and Sara! Also, Dalia knowledge on roller coasters was amazing! Makes me want to go on one myself. However, what I truly enjoyed most about this book is the found family aspect and how Dalia, Alexa, Dhruv, and Rani became like a small family in the end.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Terry Jennings

    What do you do when your father’s been having a relationship with someone for months and months and in a flash you’re faced with the prospect of having a step-mother and a step sister? It’s complicated. But Dalia’s predicament is made a little more palatable when she is invited to a week-long vacation with her possibly new step-sister to visit amusement parks. And she gets to invite her new friend Rani. Dalia is obsessed with roller coasters. She knows all about them. Yet, she’s never ridden one What do you do when your father’s been having a relationship with someone for months and months and in a flash you’re faced with the prospect of having a step-mother and a step sister? It’s complicated. But Dalia’s predicament is made a little more palatable when she is invited to a week-long vacation with her possibly new step-sister to visit amusement parks. And she gets to invite her new friend Rani. Dalia is obsessed with roller coasters. She knows all about them. Yet, she’s never ridden one. Almost Flying is a bittersweet story about a young girl discovering new love and coming to terms with her new life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    The reader is introduced to Dalia immediately, when she is doing what she loves...watching a POV video of a roller coaster. Little does Dalia know how much her world is going to be upturned when her dad wants to take a ride to get some bagels. Suddenly, Dalia is dealing with a different aspect of her life she didn't even know existed. Arlow does an excellent job of capturing the emotions and development of each character. While at times the plot felt a little too unbelievable, the storyline plays The reader is introduced to Dalia immediately, when she is doing what she loves...watching a POV video of a roller coaster. Little does Dalia know how much her world is going to be upturned when her dad wants to take a ride to get some bagels. Suddenly, Dalia is dealing with a different aspect of her life she didn't even know existed. Arlow does an excellent job of capturing the emotions and development of each character. While at times the plot felt a little too unbelievable, the storyline plays itself out and gets wrapped up nicely in the end. Overall, an enjoyable read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Main character Dalia can't stop thinking about two things: roller coasters, and her new friend Rani. So when she gets the chance to go on a road trip to amusement parks with her future stepsister and Rani -- and also escape the awkwardness of being around her dad and his new surprise fiancée -- Dalia leaps at the chance. What follows is a sweet story of Dalia sorting through her confusing feelings about Rani, told in a strong middle grade voice, with a whole lot of roller coasters along the way. Main character Dalia can't stop thinking about two things: roller coasters, and her new friend Rani. So when she gets the chance to go on a road trip to amusement parks with her future stepsister and Rani -- and also escape the awkwardness of being around her dad and his new surprise fiancée -- Dalia leaps at the chance. What follows is a sweet story of Dalia sorting through her confusing feelings about Rani, told in a strong middle grade voice, with a whole lot of roller coasters along the way.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Captures the angst of those middle school years well, especially in dealing with changing friendships and the beginnings of crushes and romantic feelings. The main character’s voice is very genuine and relatable; the confusion of feelings is described well. Nice to see queer relationships on several levels (varying ages and genders of the characters) and as the main relationships in the story. Also deals nicely with issues of family dynamics and changes. And the story’s setting in various amusem Captures the angst of those middle school years well, especially in dealing with changing friendships and the beginnings of crushes and romantic feelings. The main character’s voice is very genuine and relatable; the confusion of feelings is described well. Nice to see queer relationships on several levels (varying ages and genders of the characters) and as the main relationships in the story. Also deals nicely with issues of family dynamics and changes. And the story’s setting in various amusement parks gives it a fun, joyful lift amongst the moments of self-discovery.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ridgway

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really enjoyed this read! I loved the way the author framed Dalia’s story around actual roller coasters, as they are such an a propos analogy to all the ups and downs, thrilling, fear inducing feelings that she experiences through the book: her relationship with her dad, the “loss” of her best friend, the discovery of her soon-to-be instant family, and her awakening to not only her first crush but also to her queer feelings.

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