A Review of Helena Fox’s How it Feels to Float 

By Lilly Martinez

October 22, 2023

Throughout high school, students are required to read and analyze books that are often outdated and do not directly relate to the issues they’re facing in the current day. This means that outside of school, kids who are passionate about reading try to find books that they identify with. How it Feels to Float is the perfect next read for any teenager who struggles with mental health issues and finding a sense of belonging in high school.

This story is told from the perspective of seventeen year old Biz who finds comfort in the presence of her late father and her best friend Grace. When Biz has a falling out with her friend and her father’s presence dissipates, she has to learn how to exist in the world without her biggest support systems. She still has her mother and younger siblings, but at times, even that doesn’t feel like enough. 

How it Feels to Float captures mental illness in a way that is raw, unique, and accurate. It depicts generational mental illness and describes how this can be exaggerated by grief. Fox is able to show a non-glorified side of depression and how it affects families, friendships, and education. 

The book is written and organized in a way that keeps the reader engaged. Unlike other novels, How it Feels to Float is not simply paragraph upon paragraph. It is formatted in a way that reads poetically, often leaving single words in their own line, or using extreme figurative language that makes the story fall just short of fantasy. 

Using Biz’s internal dialogue as a key part of the story was an amazing stylistic choice by Fox. The reader gets a more genuine idea of who Biz is as a person, and is able to read all the words she does not dare to say. Without internal dialogue, Biz would have been just her mental illness and the girl that other people knew; there would have been no record of the beautiful person she truly is. 

According to Biz, “Grief feels like this: … Bad that follows you and empties you. Bad like a sinkhole… It feels like you’ve fallen overboard. You are swimming to get back, but the boat moves steadily away… It feels like missing… And all you want to do is walk into a forest and cover yourself with leaves.” 

Helena Fox has written a breathtaking narrative that deserves to be read, reviewed, and appreciated by everyone. How it Feels to Float is an important story that has the ability to change the right person’s outlook on life.