Flying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh | Book Review

You’ll have to forgive me if this review is all over the shop, but I’ve never reviewed a short story collection before and I’m not really sure how I want to go about it.

I read this collection as part of my Diversathon TBR (yes, I know it finished 2 days ago, but it was a crazy week), as something short that I could easily get through.

I think I should make it clear that I will be trying to approach this review in the same way I would any other book. Yes, diversity is important and should be commended. However, if the book isn’t good, I’m not going to give it undeserved brownie points simply for the sake of being diverse.

To start, I’m going to give you a quick overview of my thoughts on each individual story, a series of mini-reviews if you will, as it was a bit of a mixed bag.

How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium.


I think it took me a while to get into this anthology so I didn’t find myself loving this story as much as some of the later installments. It was fun to read, and there was nothing expressly wrong with it, it just wasn’t to the same standard as some of the later stories.

The Difficult Path.

In my mind, this story just didn’t fit with the rest of the collection. In isolation, it was a good story, but it’s fantastical elements didn’t really fit with the more realistic settings of the surrounding stories. Not to mention the fact that it’s location (in China) further isolated it from the other tales, but more on that later.

Sol Painting, Inc.

I really enjoyed this story and appreciated its message more than any other story in the book. However, I felt that the protagonist was too mature for what was supposed to be a 12-year-old character. It felt to me like the story had been originally written for an older age (maybe 15/16), but was lowered to fit this middle-grade collection. It’s still a really great story though.

Secret Samantha.

(It’s probably more like a 4.75, but that seems very nit-picky). I really enjoyed this story. It was subtle and authentic and innocent, and just beautifully composed. I love that it didn’t get caught up in Sam’s confusion over her feelings, and just focused on the cuteness of a first love.

The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn.

I can’t even really tell you why I didn’t like this story. I think ultimately I just found the characters unpleasant and forgettable. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for any of the characters and it ultimately just left me a little underwhelmed.

Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains.

I really appreciated the Native American representation in this collection. However, as a piece of fiction, I didn’t really enjoy this story – mostly I think due to the writing, it simply wasn’t my taste.

Main Street.

Again, I can’t help but compare this story to Secret Samantha, especially because it addresses similar issues. This story had a beautifully reflective narrative that I really enjoyed. However, although this story was still an enjoyable read, it wasn’t quite up to the same standard.

Flying Lessons.

From what I’ve seen, other readers really liked this story. Although I understand why, it didn’t stand out from the crowd for me, unfortunately. The ending was great though, very thought provoking.

Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents.

This was by far my favourite story of the collection. If I could give above a 5/5 I would. I loved the memoir style and the verse writing… it was just all so beautiful to read, without seeming overly pretentious. I could read this again and again!

Sometimes a Dream Needs A Push.

I think if I hadn’t been on the bus when I read this, I might have shed a few tears. I really enjoyed this final story, with its nuclear family and its depiction of disability (something I always appreciate in literature). It broke my heart a little, seeing how torn up the father was, struggling constantly with his guilt, but I loved how their relationship was able to be healed. Again… can I please re-read it?

As an overall collection, I was impressed by how well these stories linked to each other, despite the fact they covered such a wide range of issues. For me, the only tale that felt out of place was The Difficult Path, and I’ll explain why.

This collection as a whole was hugely Americanised. Although many different nationalities were represented, few of the stories took place outside of the US. Personally, I would have liked to get away from the basketball and the cheerleaders, and have a little more globalisation.

That being said, I understand the decision to focus in the US. As a clearly defined middle-grade collection, the Americanisation of these situations did help to make the stories relatable to a western audience, which helps to normalise diversity. So, although I would have liked it, I think it was the right decision, in order to make this collection more accessible to a young audience.

I’m sure it will be no surprise after seeing my mini reviews that I’m giving this collection, as a whole, 4/5 stars. This was a really lovely collection that I flew through. I haven’t read from any of these authors before, and I’m excited to get my hands on more of their work in the future. Have you guys tried this yet? Do you like reading short story collections? Let me know in the comments!

5 thoughts on “Flying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh | Book Review

  1. fyi, second and third paragraph from the bottom:

    “That being said, I understand the decision to focus in the US. As a clearly

    That being said, I understand the decision to focus in the US. As a clearly defined middle-grade collection, the Americanisation “


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