‘How It Feels to Float’ by Helena Fox – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

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, who loves her so hard, 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 six. 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.

My Review

How it Feels to Float is an incredibly beautifully written novel that explores grief, anxiety, depression and dissociative disorder in the most careful of ways.

The novel follows Biz as she floats through her life. The book opens with her having a group of friends, being close with her mum and her siblings, being best friends with Grace who she can’t decide if she loves in a romantic way or as a friend…

But she’s never truly there with these people.
She finds herself floating through situations never fully connecting with anyone or anything…
She’s always somewhere on the outside. Getting disconnected from what is going on around her.
But she talks and communicates with her dad. Even though her dad is dead…

Then something happens on the beach… She hears the water calling to her (content warning for suicidal ideation) and suddenly there’s Jasper beside her. But then things get complicated on the beach with one of the other guys from school (content warning for sexual assault) and Biz is ostracised.

Her life changes.
But it’s okay because she floats… She will find her father and make everything right again.

This is an own voices novel as the author herself lives with mental illness and I think this truly comes across because this book feels so authentic. I have to confess at times I felt confused as I tried to follow Biz’s thoughts but I think that was the point. She had such a loose grip on what was reality that as the reader we were struggling with her to make sense of the world around Biz.

The book is written in a beautifully lyrical fashion and is incredibly touching but it’s also quite a harrowing read. I found it really difficult to read about Biz’s mental health problems and at times I felt myself struggling to breathe within the confines of this novel. So even though I did like this novel and found it so very moving I would urge anyone that wishes to read this to make sure that they are in a good headspace as the story can be quite triggering.

One of the things I loved about this book is its LGBTQ+ rep because it’s just left to float around the edges of the novel. It is an unresolved storyline but in a way that makes it okay to be unsure about your sexual identity, to not want to put a label on yourself and to just be who you are at any given moment in time. And I think that’s such an amazing message. That love is love, and we are who we are, and it’s okay to be everything and nothing all at once.

This book is wonderful in how Biz is allowed to be herself. Though she’s dealing with mental illness she feels more than her diagnosis. It doesn’t define who she is. She’s just a girl trying to figure out her place in the world and I love that.

Overall I really liked this book because it’s such a brilliantly written diverse read with sumptuous prose and a main character that really touched my heart.
But despite all these things I find myself only wanting to give the book three stars because at times I was too overcome with emotion… I think perhaps my own mental well-being was just challenged a little too much and sadly I somewhat regret having read this book when I’ve had a tough week myself.
So while I highly recommend this book I do want to make sure that anyone going into this book has their eyes wide open. So if you do read this please ensure that you have the proper support system to be there for you if you find anything too upsetting or triggering.

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11 thoughts on “‘How It Feels to Float’ by Helena Fox – Book Review

  1. Oooof. This sounds so good but extra painful. Great review – extra grateful for the trigger warnings.
    This book sounds similar to The Art of Breaking Things, which I have on my book pile but have been avoiding for similar reasons. Also, I’ve noticed YA mental health books are often blue or purple? Hm…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great way to describe it Lauren. Really good but oh so painful. Definitely a book well worth reading but key that you’re in the right frame of mind to read it. It’s difficult like The Bell Jar was difficult to read. But yet that book was so needed and moved me so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i love this review so very much. thank you for your very honest opinion. i’m putting this on my tbr but i think it’ll be awhile until i can read it because of my own mindset right now and what i’m going through personally but it sounds like a very gorgeous read. awesome as usual love.

    Liked by 2 people

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