Tiger Lilly Decker is hoping to make it through the next twelve years. Her genetics have predicted her future and it doesn't look good. Lilly's mom had schizophrenia and attempted to kill Lilly and herself by jumping off the top of a building when Lilly was seven years old. Now, as a senior in high school, the danger zone for the onset of schizophrenia is approaching. Lilly follows a strict regiment to ensure that she will not trigger any of the symptoms including reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding certain foods. Lilly's handsome, rich, popular and not yet out of the closet, best friend, Sawyer supports her through. With Lilly's internship at the local paper, she has been reporting on the birth of an Asian Elephant Calf, Swifty. After the calf is born however, the mom rejects Swifty and Lilly is triggered to run in front of the charging elephant mother to protect Swifty. With a strong bond to the calf, Lilly is invited to follow Swifty as she is sent to the circus to be with the father that sired her. Lilly continues to report on Swifty and the circus conditions and digs until she uncovers the cruelty that happens there. With Swifty slowly dying, Lilly decides to break all of her rules and the law to get Swifty to safety.
When Elephants Fly is a powerful story of one person's journey with schizophrenia. If that weren't enough, the story also focuses on animal rights and sexuality. Lilly's story is an important one, putting into focus that people with a mental illness are people first and should not be characterized by their illness. Lilly is careful, guarded, and has an amazing heart. Her fear of inheriting schizophrenia is understandable, but rules her life. Lilly's journey to accept that she can not change her genetics is very meaningful especially when it is tied into the story of saving the life of Swifty. With Swifty's story Lilly learns that there are bigger things in life than herself. Swifty brings to light the plight that all elephants are facing now in the wild and the role of zoos in animal conservation along with the difficult decisions that people make on the elephant's behalf. Along with that, Lilly learns that some people aren't what they seem as she uncovers that hidden animal abuse at the zoo. The writing does a wonderful job of showing the complex emotions that elephants have as well as the complicated nature of a mental illness. As Swifty's life is endangered, Lilly's symptoms also begin to show, although it doesn't seem like anything that Lilly can't deal with. Inspiring and hopeful, When Elephants Fly beautifully takes difficult subjects and weaves them into an intricate and enjoyable story.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.