Book Review: How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox (ARC)

How It Feels to Float

Author: Helena Fox

Publication Date: 07 May 2019

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 382

Publisher: Dial Books

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.

When it comes to YA books, I think some of the topics that need to be discussed more often is grief and mental illness. It is incredibly important to such a vulnerable community, and from that aspect of things, this book deserves both my praise and admiration. However, I had an incredibly difficult time finishing this book because it just did not hold my attention.

Elizabeth ‘Biz’ is a 16-year-old teenager who in addition to dealing with the typical drama of every day high school life is still grieving the tragic death of her father, which occurred when she was younger. To make matters worse, she sees him every single day (sort of like a ghost or apparition but not in a haunting sort of way) and they even have conversations (even though they consist of Biz’s dad telling her about her childhood and how she wasn’t meant to be).

Everything changed for Biz the day her and Grace got drunk with a bunch of friends at the beach. Biz ended up drifting into the ocean under a daze, which required recitation from the hot new student Jasper. It only gets worse when the school starts spreading rumors that she lost her virginity to one of the idiot jocks, labeling her as easy and damaged goods. Even Grace retreats from Biz. As the story progresses, another incident lands both Grace and Biz in jail, which is Biz’s breaking point. She used to be a good kid and always obeyed her parents. Her life is falling apart. She can’t trust her own brain, so she drops out of school since she can’t get out of bed.

The rest of the story is Biz trying to find a way to get her life back together. Like I said at the beginning of the review, I think that this is incredibly important for someone going through something like this, especially for the age group that is targeted. For me, I honestly felt like I was just floating through the pages waiting for the book to end. As someone who has also lost a parent, I had a hard time relating to Biz because my grief looked so much different. This is NOT to say that hers was wrong or anything like that because we all grieve differently. Therefore, while this book was not for me, I do still recommend this book for readers who are looking to read more about grief and depression.

Thank you Bookish First and Dial Books for gifting me this ARC. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.  


  1. I like that you qualified this review on the fact that everyone grieves differently so while you recieved it differently based on how you grieved others who might have had a different experience might take to it better.

    Not because of a dramatic event but because of genre I have written reviews that I’ve felt the same about a book. It wasnt the book, it was me kind of thing.

    No matter the reason I think it is really important that we recognize and clearly communicate those situations when reviewing a book.

    Liked by 1 person

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