'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 16 September 2019

Review: How It Feels To Float

In this exquisite debut novel, Helena Fox has used her own personal experiences to create a stunning piece of work that will leave readers gasping from its pure beauty. 

Delivered with heart and truth, Fox shows us how mental illness steals the colour from life and leaves only grey; how it sucks away all the joy until ‘all you want to do is walk into a forest and cover yourself with leaves’.

Elizabeth, called Biz, is in Year 11. Her father died when she was seven. Her grief has never left her. She sees him everywhere. He has conversations with her almost daily.

Biz can’t control the darkness that descends on her. It is on one of these occasions that she walks into the sea and is saved by Jasper, a new boy in class. But it is some time before a friendship is built, as Jasper ignores her and she him.

Biz’s best friend is Grace. They are both part of an elite group of intelligent students that get together at break times to discuss anything and everything. When Grace starts an intimate relationship with one of the group, and he dumps her, things spiral out of control for Biz, as Grace is sent away to the country by her parents.

Biz falls to pieces when Graces ceases to communicate with her. This fragmenting is exacerbated by the group’s destruction of her reputation, a tool that they frequently use as payback. Biz drops out of school, sees a psychologist then psychiatrist, and is encouraged to take a course to occupy her mind. But she still feels like she’s floating in that area where no one can reach her.

Her saviour comes in the form of 83 year old Sylvia, who is in her photography class. She turns out to be Jasper’s Gran and Biz forms a deep friendship Sylvia and Jasper after he re-enters her life.

Biz decides that if she goes to the places that her father had lived in, and re-creates his life, that it would somehow bring him back to her.

What Biz discovers about her family’s history of mental illness brings her to her knees. Can this broken person be put together again through love and kindness?

The theme of loss and grief and the invisibility caused by mental illness is at times unnerving. This novel teaches that each of us is a story. Some are shapeless, others full and round; a romance or a tragedy. I loved everything about this book and have never read another as beautiful and emotive as this which is both structurally and prose perfect.

Title: How It Feels To Float
Author: Helena Fox
Publisher: Macmillan, $17.99
Publication Date: 23 April 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760783303
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction