Book Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

how it feels to fly


Title: How it Feels to Fly
Author: Kathryn Holmes
Published in: 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, mental health/mental illness


“The movement is all that matters. 

For as long as Samantha can remember, she’s wanted to be a professional ballerina. She’s lived for perfect pirouettes, sky-high extensions, and soaring leaps across the stage. Then her body betrayed her.

The change was gradual. Stealthy.

Failed diets. Disapproving looks. Whispers behind her back. The result: crippling anxiety about her appearance, which threatens to crush her dancing dreams entirely. On her dance teacher’s recommendation, Sam is sent to a summer treatment camp for teen artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. If she can make progress, she’ll be allowed to attend a crucial ballet intensive. But when asked to open up about her deepest insecurities, secret behaviors, and paralyzing fears to complete strangers, Sam can’t cope. 

What I really need is a whole new body.

Sam forms an unlikely bond with Andrew, a former college football player who’s one of her camp counselors. As they grow closer, Andrew helps Sam see herself as he does—beautiful. But just as she starts to believe that there’s more between them than friendship, disappointing news from home sends her into a tailspin. With her future uncertain and her body against her, will Sam give in to the anxiety that imprisons her?”

-from Goodreads

My Review

All Sam Wagner wants to do is be a professional ballerina dancer. But after she gained weight and developed curves, she began having panic attacks and anxiety about her appearance. To help deal with this anxiety, she is sent to Perform at Your Peak, a three week summer program for teen athletes and artists that have mental and emotional problems. It’s there that she must face and talk about her deepest feelings, thoughts, and secrets in order to cope with anxiety and move on.

Sam was a really relatable character. It’s easy to relate to her since pretty much all of us have had obstacles in the way of our goals and have had insecurities at some point. I especially related to Sam’s anxiety. I understood the thoughts she had and the struggles she faced. While I don’t do ballet like Sam, I know what it’s like to have anxiety problems and for them to get in the way of your life.

The plot was pretty good. I don’t really like sports or dancing so I didn’t really like the scenes with physical challenges or the talk about sports. The novel wasn’t really about that, though. It focused on athletes and artists, but was more about therapy and recovery. I really liked the group meetings and therapy sessions. I liked seeing what Sam’s deepest feelings and thoughts were. That helped me understand her better.

I wished Sam would have stayed and finished the program instead of sneaking out of the camp and driving into the next state to try to audition again for the ballet intensive she was rejected from a few days before that. I sort of understand, though, what people will do for the things they’re passionate about and what they’ll do to pursue their dreams.

Sam had some kind of relationship with her camp counselor, Andrew. She developed a crush on him early on in the book and thought he felt the same. But it turns out he only liked her as a friend, which she found out after trying to kiss him. After that, he was dismissed from his job and she didn’t hear from him again. I both liked and disliked this. I liked it because I’m tired of books showing romances as the cure to mental and emotional problems. But I disliked this because I thought she should have talked to him again or something after that to close that part of the story a little better.

The ending wasn’t what I expected, but it was good. I liked that it was realistic. All her problems weren’t all fixed and that, while she had made progress, she was still struggling with anxiety. She also realized she can do ballet while being open to other things.

How it Feels to Fly was a great book on anxiety. I would recommend to anyone looking for a realistic, contemporary novel or a novel about mental health.

Rating: 5/5 Stars


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