Review Blog

Jun 14 2019

How it feels to float by Helena Fox

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Pan Macmillan, 2019. ISBN: 9781760783303.
(Age: 13-17) Recommended. Seventeen-year-old Biz lives with her mum and her younger twin siblings in Wollongong. She has a circle of friends at school but is particularly close to Grace, until she kisses her and then worries she has ruined the friendship. She also worries that she has unwittingly offended Jasper, the new boy at school. Biz is particularly close to her dad, who sits on the end of her bed and tells her stories about his life. She can't tell anyone this though, as her dad died when she was seven, and she blames herself for his sadness and his death. Biz has learnt to float through her day-to-day life, appearing to be an ordinary teenage girl. But then an incident at the beach sets off a series of events which leave her spiraling further into mental illness. She drops out of school and experiences more hallucinations and panic attacks, often finding herself unable to remember events as they really happened. Through a photography class she befriends an eighty-year-old lady who turns out to be Jasper's grandmother. Biz and Jasper go on a road trip which she hopes will reconnect her with her father, but she might find out more than she ever wanted to know.
The first-person narration in this book describe Biz's mental state in uncompromising detail. Helena Fox reports in her acknowledgements that she herself has lived with mental illness her whole life, and this is so evident in the way we experience Biz's thoughts and feelings. While not an enjoyable read due to the rawness of emotion, it is incredibly well-written, and will speak especially to teenagers who might find themselves experiencing similar feelings.
Donella Reed

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