Summary and book reviews of How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float

by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox X
How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
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  • First Published:
    May 2019, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2020, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Book Summary

A deeply hopeful YA novel about living with mental illness that's perfect for fans of Girl in Pieces.

Biz knows how to float. She has her people, her posse, her mom and the twins. She has Grace. And she has her dad, who tells her about the little kid she was, and who shouldn't be here but is. So Biz doesn't tell anyone anything. Not about her dark, runaway thoughts, not about kissing Grace or noticing Jasper, the new boy. And she doesn't tell anyone about her dad. Because her dad died when she was seven. And Biz knows how to float, right there on the surface - normal okay regular fine.

But after what happens on the beach - first in the ocean, and then in the sand - the tethers that hold Biz steady come undone. Dad disappears and, with him, all comfort. It might be easier, better, sweeter to float all the way away? Or maybe stay a little longer, find her father, bring him back to her. Or maybe - maybe maybe maybe - there's a third way Biz just can't see yet.

Debut author Helena Fox tells a story about love and grief, about inter-generational mental illness, and how living with it is both a bridge to someone loved and lost and, also, a chasm. She explores the hard and beautiful places loss can take us, and honors those who hold us tightly when the current wants to tug us out to sea.

Excerpt
How It Feels To Float

At three in the morning when I can't sleep, the room ticks over in the dark and all I have for company is the rush of words coming up fast like those racehorses you see on television, poor things, and when their hearts give out they are laid on the ground and shot dead behind a blue sheet.

At three a.m., I think of hearts. I think of candy hearts and carved-tree hearts and hummingbird hearts. I think of hearts in bodies and the rhythm inside us we don't get to choose.

I lay my hand over mine. There it is.

It beatbeats beatbeatbeats skipsabeatbeatbeat

beatbeatbeats.

A heart is a mystery and not a mystery. It hides under ribs, pumping blood. You can pull it out, hold it in your hand.Squeeze. It wants what it wants. It can be made of gold, glass, stone. It can stop anytime.

People scratch hearts into benches, draw them onto fogged windows, tattoo them on their skin. Believe the story they tell themselves: that hearts are somehow bigger than muscle, that we are ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This story is an incredible, lyrical journey through a teenager's struggle with undiagnosed mental health issues and the hereditary or intergenerational effects of trauma. Readers will be moved not only to empathy, but perhaps a real understanding through being enveloped in Biz's mind. They will be forced to confront their preconceptions of what it might mean to be either strong or fragile and what defines mental health, as well as face the idea that being "normal" or "okay" or "fine" is something that all of us have a tenuous hold on at best. And at the end of it all, they just might know... How It Feels to Float...continued

Full Review (592 words).

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(Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Media Reviews

Bustle
A YA The Bell Jar with a ghostly twist, [and an] honest, nuanced portrayal of grief and life with mental illness... . A mesmerizing and timely debut.

BookPage (starred review)
This is a frank story of mental illness, loss, and sexual identity, and Fox responsibly concludes her story with information and support services for readers facing similar issues. How It Feels to Float is a beautifully crafted story of finding hope and love when both appear to be gone forever.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Fox writes with superb understanding and tenderness...The poignant depiction of depression is leavened by secondary characters who love Biz, ranging from Jasper’s photographer grandmother to Jasper himself and even to Biz’s doomed dad, who may have lost to his demons but who has a larky beauty that lights up the pages...Ambiguity enhances the beautiful, unsteady shimmer of Biz’s story.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lyrical and profoundly affecting, providing a nuanced account of the hereditary effects of trauma. Haunting.

Booklist (starred review)
Biz is smart, funny, and self-deprecating ... [How It Feels to Float is] a masterful portrayal of mental illness that illuminates the complex interplay between emotional trauma and the mind's subsequent recoil. And the writing is just beautiful.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Exquisite...Through lyrical first-person narration, Fox empathically conveys the hereditary nature of Biz’s illness, its disorienting manifestations, and the limitations and power of love to heal.

Author Blurb Kathleen Glasgow, author of Girl in Pieces
Profoundly moving ... Will take your breath away.

Author Blurb Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels
This book will explode you into atoms, put you back together, and return the new shape of you to earth. Alive with sensation and rich in thought and feeling, How it Feels to Float intensively explores what it's like to be here now.

Author Blurb Kerry Kletter, author of The First Time She Drowned
Impossibly beautiful, life-affirming, profound. This is not a book; it is a work of art.

Author Blurb Cath Crowley, author of Words in Deep Blue
Every now and then you pick up a novel and you know you've found something wonderful—a glorious voice, a character you adore. Helena Fox's novel delivers. It is exquisite. Read it.

Reader Reviews

Ruby

Amazing book
I really enjoyed this book because i felt connected with the character and related to her in lots of ways, i think people my age or older would enjoy this book, especially if they've had some sort of death in their life that hit them hard. The Author...   Read More
Sof

Amazing
Wonderful book. Remains to be one of my favourites.

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Beyond the Book

Grief and Intergenerational Trauma

Intergenerational TraumaAs the narrative of How It Feels to Float unfolds, it becomes apparent that Biz's father suffered from some mental health problems and that there is a connection between how he and Biz process the world. The hereditary effects of trauma are only just becoming understood but, in essence, intergenerational trauma describes the transfer of the traumatic experience from those who experienced it first hand to a second, or even further generations, of offspring by way of complex post-traumatic stress disorder mechanisms.

Though the idea is still being debated in scientific circles, there is a theory that the children of people who have faced traumas have an even greater chance of having stress disorders than the parents who suffered the ...

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