Book Review: How It Feels To Fly

How It Feels To Fly

How It Feels To Fly – Kathryn Holmes – HarperTeen – Published 14 June 2016



A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

My thoughts

I’m not sure how to review this book. Not because I’m in any doubt about how powerful and all-round fantastic it is, but because hits hard on some big issues.  Reading it was challenging and confronting. It deals with serious topics, from body image, anxiety and therapy, to bullying, self perception and relationships, both good and bad.

I was immediately drawn into Sam’s world. She narrates the story and it gives readers the perfect insight into her head and thoughts. She struggles with a nasty, little voice constantly telling her that she’s no good, too fat and will never achieve her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. The majority of this book takes place at a summer camp for teens who are elite performers and athletes with anxiety issues. None of them want to be there and certainly don’t want to identify with the others. It takes some rocky starts and shouting matches for this loveable group to learn to work together.    

When Sam is at the camp she starts to fall for her camp counsellor, Andrew. I don’t think its spolier-y to say that this book isn’t a romance. Instead, it is a story about facing your demons, learning to surround yourself with people you trust and maybe even following your dreams. I liked how the ‘romance’ aspect played out, thought it was best for the story and for Sam.

I think this is a must-have for any library’s bookshelf. It so accurately deals with a range of mental health issue in a realistic and enjoyable way. It also portrays therapy positively, while also considering some realistic pitfalls. It doesn’t preach or offer all the answers, but instead tells a story to which, I think, many people will relate. Powerful stuff.

The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Mental health, ballet, therapy, body dysmorphia, anxiety, mother-daughter relationships.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Published: 14 June 2016 by HarperTeen.

Format: Hardcover,  ebook. 368 pages.

ISBN: 9780062387349

Find it on Goodreads


  1. Discoverecovery

    This sounds fantastic. I’ll have to pick up a copy in June!

    • Madison's Library

      I hope you do. It is a beautiful book and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for your comment!

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