Skip to main content

How it Feels to Fly

Review

How it Feels to Fly

HOW IT FEELS TO FLY by Kathryn Holmes is more than just a story about a girl with body dysmorphia, it is a statement about the epidemic of our body shaming culture. 

The society we live in today has propelled us to only be judged by the way that we look rather than by who we are or what we can do. Girls today do not receive praise for their intellectual minds, but for their choice of clothing, makeup, hairstyles and most importantly, by the shape of their bodies. Society teaches girls to body shame --- and that our self-worth is matched by the number glaring back at us on the scale. Why --- or better yet, how, have we become so critical of one another for simply being ourselves and how do we overcome this epidemic? Kathryn Holmes has the answer.     

"Holmes takes us through Sam’s experience...beautifully. HOW IT FEELS TO FLY is honest, raw and beyond engaging."

In HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, we are introduced to Sam, a sixteen-year-old ballet dancer. Holmes makes it clear from the very first page of the novel that ballet is not just a hobby for Sam, or even a passion, it is her life. Without pliés and relevés, Sam would be nothing.  Most of us will die before ever knowing “how it feels to fly,” but Sam did know --- that is until “[her] body betrayed [her].” She hates her stomach and the way it “pouches out” when she bends. She hates her “thick thighs” and the way they jiggle when she moves.  She hates her back and the way it pushes out her fat through her pink leotard. Sam hates when people look at her because she knows what they are thinking: she is ugly. She is fat and she is worthless. She will never be thin enough and, most importantly, she will never be beautiful enough to be her mother’s idea of a perfect ballerina. Ballet used to make Sam feel alive, but now she feels like she is on trial, suffocating with every stare, whisper or glare at her new curves. 

Fourteen pounds ago, Sam was supposed to be on her way to a professional ballet career at a top-ranked summer intensive class in North Carolina --- but today she is on her way to “Perform at Your Peak” summer camp, a two-week therapy program for performing teens with anxiety disorders. Sam, Zoe, Jenna, Katie, Omar and Dominic all ended up at Perform at Your Peak for different reasons. They are from all over the country and have nothing in common, but soon realize they relate to each other more than anyone ever thought possible. Some are angry and resistant to treatment, but they all signed themselves in and it’s up to them to see it through.

For anyone who has suffered from an anxiety disorder, specifically young women, this book is both inspiring and life-changing. Holmes allows the reader inside the mind of a self-deprecating, anxiety-stricken teenage girl --- struggling to keep it together for all the wrong reasons. Every positive thought in Sam’s mind is immediately counteracted by a negative, derogatory insult to herself. For Sam, there is an ulterior motive and meaning behind any compliment she receives --- they can’t possibly be sincere, because Sam truly believes she is worthless of any admiration. Holmes takes us through Sam’s experience at “Crazy Camp” --- as Zoe likes to call it --- beautifully. HOW IT FEELS TO FLY is honest, raw and beyond engaging.  At times, I was overwhelmed with emotion because I felt like I was there with Sam, watching her crouch down into the fetal position preparing for her oncoming panic attack. She is her own worst enemy, just like the rest of us. But will her self-loathing and insecurities simply cause her to self-destruct into nothingness or will she learn to overcome her anxiety about her body? As Holmes shows us, the answer is that she cannot survive until she is ready to love herself.

Reviewed by Chloe Durante on May 17, 2016

How it Feels to Fly
by Kathryn Holmes