lockquote> A heart is a mystery and not a mystery. It hides under ribs, pumping blood. You can pull it out, hold it in your hand. Squeeze. It wants what it wants. It can be made of gold, glass, stone. It can stop anytime.
This is the type of book that gives you a tangible feeling of pain, making you feel empty like there's no more space left for you to process the emotions you are currently feeling. Reading this book made me feel like I was being pinned to a wall to witness the events the main character was feeling, seeing her struggle and not getting the answers she needed, as if reading about them was not enough. I feel like I have found a new favorite, but it is the type that can't be read again, as the anguish and pain experienced is not something I want to experience again. But even then, reading this allowed me to think differently, and accept that everything will be okay, even if I don't believe it and even if no one else believes it.
Helena Fox has created a powerful portrayal of mental illness and how it affects daily life even when that individual is not aware of it. She has created a character who carries pain in her life and wonders what she did to deserve this, finding the clues and answers on her own, as her mental health is carried away by them. She numbs the pain by talking to the ocean and the waves, looking at photographs and understanding the messages they carry.
Why are you so sad and empty when you have a house with walls and a roof and people who love you?
Biz says she's okay. She has thoughts wandering in her head that she doesn't tell others about. She's noticed things others have not. She doesn't tell her friends about the time she kissed her best friend, Grace, or about the time the new boy, Jasper, made her feel guilty for talking to him because of his leg. She also doesn't tell them about her dad and how she's able to see him, talk to him like he never died in the first place. She thinks she wouldn't be able to be part of her group, The Posse, anymore, because she can be labeled as crazy, weird, or a freak.
But after an encounter at a party, Biz has some sort of connection with the sea, being able to talk to the waves and understand what they are saying, slowly making their way up her body as it begins to take her over. After this, Biz begins to encounter different thoughts, things and is a whole different Elizabeth. She continues to speak to her dad, who sits at the edge of her bed and reminds her of times when she was little. She loses her friends, and her best friend Grace and she are now known as sluts at their school, causing both to create chaos. She's somehow joined a photography course class and become friends with an 80-year-old lady, who just happens to be the grandmother of Biz' new friend, Jasper.Trigger/content warnings
for depression, suicide attempt, suicide thoughts, panic attacks, loss of a loved one, grief, and loss.How It Feels to Float
is about floating in the air as you constantly struggle to keep up with everything that is taking over you. It is about not seeing how we are taken over by mental illness and how it can ruin our lives but have us think everything is becoming better. Sometimes, it felt like I was looking at a reflection of my life in the fictional eyes of Biz that I will never see. Helena Fox stated in her acknowledgments that she herself struggles with mental health, and portraying it in her debut novel was so powerful and emotional. She does not look away from how raw it is and how negatively affecting it is. Fox made this novel seem so bright and lovely at first, but then, as we get to meet Biz more, we see how much she is struggling. One of the first takeaways I got from reading this was that you can't always see what people are struggling with, and shying away from asking or wondering is something that we all struggle with because we're never sure if it is a good idea to ask or not.
The biggest topic in this is mental health, but there is more than that as well. There is a struggle with love, lack of understanding, and so much misery. Our main character, Elizabeth, who goes by Biz for short, is able to see her dad (as if he was a ghost) who died when she was a young little girl. She has memories with him, but those memories have turned into reality, as she is the only one who can see her dad again. She sees him on the edge of her bed, the living room, walking with her, and other places she steps through. He can't help her, but he tries talking to her and reminding her of special and little moments they shared. Every time Biz is about to speak again, he vanishes, leaving Biz alone.
Biz struggles with depression and panic attacks, but she doesn't see that at first. This is something so common in society and it is hard to accept. There is so much to take from Biz as a character. Her struggles are seen so real and her humanity is painful and enduring. Not only is she struggling, but so are people around her, and the readers can see that. Her mother is struggling with understanding her
mother, unsure what it is that she did so her daughter can be the way she is; her best friend, Grace, was no longer allowed to be in contact with Biz, even though Biz continuously emailed her, updating her on what she was doing; the new boy, Jasper, is not who Biz thought he was, and he later ends up becoming the friend Biz needed in order to get away from her reality. From the struggles of love to struggle of communication, Biz is the type of character to float in my heart as she reminds me that everything is okay but it is not okay; that everything that is a mystery is not a mystery; that the heart is different than what we think it is, sometimes making us feel invalid and useless.
“We've seen sharks and drownings and shipwrecks and plastic. Ratio of sharks to drowning to shipwrecks to plastic, 5 : 2 : : 1 : 1,000,000,” say the waves at my waist.
I shake my head sorrowfully.
“That's so sad,” I say.
“It is sad,” the waves say from under my boobs. “Why don't you do something about it, Biz?”
“Me?” A wave slaps at my chest.
“Yes, you, Biz, what the fuck are you doing just scrolling the Internet when the sea is suffocating?”
I felt so bad for Biz throughout the whole novel. There is so much realness in this book, it felt like I was actually reading about society and not about the society of this girl named Biz. She's judged from start to finish, she is lonely, and she's taken as a minority. Although Biz is fictional, she gave me so much sympathy and made me feel like she was real. It's like I can see her in front of me, trying to let me know a message she has been carrying but can't let go of because no one will believe her. She struggled with her own self-identity, not knowing who she really was and if she actually had feelings for her best friend, or for girls in general. She was lonely, never stopping by the crowds to talk to someone. Her friends were never really her friends, and the judgemental attitude of all of them got to her, as she learned from them and decided to think her new friend Jasper was who her friends
said he was.
There was a time I walked into the sea and the sea almost took me, but a boy pulled me out and didn't speak to me afterwards, not once. Even though the portrayal of mental health in this is powerful and needed, the portrayal of survival and hope is also there.
Biz does not suffer and live on her own. She has people who care about her, but it took her some time to see it. Although her dad is just someone she can see, he wanted to help, and would constantly remind her of happy moments because it was as if he knew she was sad. Another person who helped her was her mother. Fox does not shy away from the flawed family subject, and her mother is a mother, after all, trying to help her and understand her, doing whatever she could. You can't blame her, after all, being a widowed mother of 3 children while still grieving is not an easy job to do. This book just had me open my eyes more and see that parents do their best for their children and although sometimes it seems like they haven't done anything, in reality, they've done everything, and it's not that they don't want to continue, but it's that they can no longer continue.
Biz also has Jasper in her life, allowing herself to escape and feel more of what the world has to offer that is good. She has Sylvia, who listens to Biz all the time and assures her that everything will get better. Even with all the positive people and positivity in the book, the voice of Biz was so real. It felt like she was talking to me, like the waves talked to her, telling me that she was not okay. I couldn't talk back, and it made me feel guilty as all I could do was watch and let it go, wait for the best, and see how the rest would unfold. It is notable that Fox understands her character as her own, as she does not play with her emotions and feelings in stereotypical ways but instead shuts those boundaries and shows the world that it is real.
Even in the most hopeless moments, the author decides to add brightness and rays of sunshine to the life of Biz, letting her experience happiness, joy, and relief as she wanders into the unknown places she has longed for. Like her, I believe you can't just grasp that happiness you once had after achieving something in one day, as things can quickly change and you just go back to the feeling of misery, of so much sadness that you start to believe you deserved this discomfort. But then, these are the type of novels that allow you to explore different feeling and emotions, as you can relate to the character on many situations, but they are also the type that can heal you and give you hope. How It Feels to Float
gives hope and a voice to the hopeless and the voiceless, the ones who feel closeted and unsafe.
The world is full of strange wonders, darling. Maybe you're just lucky enough to see them. Reply