Book Review: Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow
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.
Let’s just all admit that I’m really overusing the word “delightful” these days. If it doesn’t actually make it into every review I post, it certainly makes it into my notes. I guess I’m only reading things I find, in some way, delightful. This is not a word I use much in my regular, not-review-writing life. But here we are. So. Guess what this book is? Yep. Delightful. A delight.
This book does such a great job showing Dalia really working through some things. She’s grappling with three main things this summer leading into 8th grade: being ditched by her former best friend, accepting her father’s new relationship, and understanding her feelings for Rani, a new girl on her swim team. Those are three really, really big things, but Arlow gives Dalia plenty of space to work through her feelings while also taking her on a fun amusement park adventure. And it’s actually directly because of this adventure that Dalia is able to figure out how she feels about all these things. She’s on this road trip with Alexa, her soon-to-be stepsister who just finished her first year of college, and Alexa’s BFF, Dhruv. When Dhruv references his boyfriend and then when Alexa’s girlfriend joins them for part of the trip, Dalia begins to hesitantly ask them questions about how you know if you like someone and how to know if that someone might like you back. The “someone” isn’t hypothetical—it’s Rani. But Dalia’s worried that if she tells Rani she likes her in that way, she may blow her one and only friendship. Dalia gets lots of great advice and support from her new, older friends. And you can probably guess that things turn out okay for Dalia, since I’m finding everything so delightful and all.
Readers will appreciate watching Dalia sort out her new feelings about just so many things (liking Rani, her dad’s announcement that he’s getting married, her old friendship with Abby, and more). This book is fun, sweet, and has such great characters. Definitely a must-have for middle school library collections.
Review copy (finished hardcover) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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