by Kathryn Holmes
Genres: Contemporary, Mental Illness, Young Adult
Publication Date: June 14th 2016 by HarperTeen
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Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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?
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I don’t let anyone see what’s happening inside my head. Not my friends, not my classmates, not my mom. It’s a performance that never ends.
Being a ballet dancer is all Sam wants. When an inner voice starts putting negative thoughts in Sam’s head about her body image, Sam starts to get paranoid about other people talking bad about her body. Having these contacts thoughts in her head take Sam to start having panic attacks until one day, others witness her breakdown and she gets sent to Perform at Your Peak camp, where she will meet other campers going through anxieties and a psychologist who will help her state of mind.
Ballet was my safest space. Then my body changed. […] I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone looking at me. […] Before long, my nasty inner voice had more to say about me, and worse, than anyone else ever could.
Sam’s story was…challenging. I could see myself in Sam a few years ago by having body image issues, going into anxiety mode because I would think people were talking bad about my body, and thinking so low of myself. The difference between Sam and I was that I never thought I was fat. I actually thought I was skinny, which I was, but I still struggled so much with my body. Sam’s journey shook me to the core, especially her inner voice because I had that same inner voice for years and sometimes it still makes an appearance in my head.
Maybe you left pretty. But you weren’t. You aren’t. You never will be.
Sam went to the camp to help her lessen her panic attacks and her anxieties so she could be ready for the ballet summer intensive she wanted to attend. Being at camp was a struggle for her because she was under the constant watch of her fellow campers, peer advisers and the psychologist and one thing Sam really didn’t like was people watching her eat, or simply just watching her. It made her feel so uncomfortable, but she couldn’t really do much about it. Each camper had to perform certain challenges, related to their anxiety and I absolutely loved the way these were exposed in the story and I really believe they could be used in real life.
The way Dr. Lancaster, the psychologist, handled every situation with care and professionalism reminded me of my own psychologist and just how caring she is. It also reminded me that there are some great psychologists in the world who really do care for their patients. Anyway, Dr. Lancaster never stepped out of line and was always ever-present in the process of getting better for each camper.
This story also showed the lives of the other campers from Sam’s perspective. I thought these characters wouldn’t have shown much depth, and boy was I wrong. The author had such a talent in going deep with each character, even from a perspective that wasn’t there’s. We have Katie, a gymnast who’s the youngest of the group but with such a big heart and was always attentive to Sam’s needs. Omar, a performer who was the follower of the group and most of the time went into anxiety mode whenever Sam had her episodes. Jenna, a figure skater who could relate the most to Sam. Dominic, a football player who was kind of cocky but would try to make light out of every situation and lastly Zoe, a tennis player whom I consider to be the ignorant of the group seeing as she was so insensitive to everyone’s anxieties, but she was having a huge struggle with her family.
By the description, you would think this book is mostly about a ballet, and in a way it is because this revolves around Sam’s life, a ballet dancer, but this is so much more than that. It goes above and beyond the Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks—it digs deep into the character and brings out the ugly, but ultimately gets transformed into something beautiful that gives hope.
Overall, How It Feels to Fly is a delightful, overwhelming, and eye-opening story about accepting yourself just the way you are and it reminds the readers that while recovery isn’t easy, it can be achieved.
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