Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes


Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 14, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 368
Goodreads || Book Depository

A struggle with body dysmorphia forces one girl to decide if letting go of her insecurity also means turning her back on her dreams.

Sam has always known she’d be a professional dancer—but that was before her body betrayed her, developing unmanageable curves in all the wrong places. Lately, the girl staring back at Sam in the mirror is unrecognizable. Dieting doesn’t work, ignoring the whispers is pointless, and her overbearing mother just makes it worse.

Following a series of crippling anxiety attacks, Sam is sent to a treatment camp for teens struggling with mental and emotional obstacles. Forced to open up to complete strangers, Sam must get through the program if she wants to attend a crucial ballet intensive later in the summer. It seems hopeless until she starts confiding in a camp counselor who sparks a confidence she was sure she’d never feel again. But when she’s faced with disappointing setbacks, will Sam succumb to the insecurity that imprisons her?

This compelling story from Kathryn Holmes examines one girl’s efforts to overcome her worst enemy: herself.


4 stars

How it Feels to Fly is a beautiful coming-of-age, mental health story about overcoming anxiety and other barriers to become the person you want to be. It deals with body image, self-confidence and other anxieties that performers may suffer from.

This was such a relatable story. Our main character, Sam, is a ballerina and wants nothing more than to be a professional dancer. However, in recent years, she’s developed curves and her body is no longer the ideal body of a ballet dancer. This has led her to develop body dysmorphia and she’s unable to stop her inner voice that’s telling her she’s fat and unworthy. She finds herself at a summer therapy camp for performers, where she meets 5 other teens dealing with various anxiety issues. What I enjoyed most about this book was that it wasn’t only about Sam’s problems. The book also dealt with the issues that the other campers had and focused on their treatment and development throughout the book too. And because of the variety of anxiety issues that were explored, it’s impossible not to relate or feel connected to the book because we would have all experienced some of the same uncertainties or anxieties at some point in our lives. I also really liked that the book wasn’t about ballet. It was about Sam’s insecurities and the mental struggles she was having, rather than about ballet or the ballet world itself. The book was set almost entirely at the therapy camp and I loved that about it.

I thought the way Sam’s anxiety and body image issues were represented was very realistic. I felt extremely uneasy at times because her negative thoughts and the way she saw herself was very relatable and believable. Body dissatisfaction is probably something that everybody has dealt with at some point, including me, and it was so upsetting to see Sam taking it so hard and working so hard to get the perfect body. I thought her character development was wonderful and the progress she made was so heartwarming and inspiring. I didn’t always love her as a character but I really enjoyed and appreciated the journey that she took. The author has done a magnificent job at thoroughly addressing all of the issues and factors involved in Sam’s anxiety. I did, however, think that the problems she had with her mother were resolved a little bit too quickly at the end and I wanted it to be a bigger focus of the book.

There were a lot of great side characters in How it Feels to Fly. Even though I didn’t always like Sam’s character, there was always somebody else to latch on to and that made it a very enjoyable reading experience. The relationships between them were also great and there was just such a wonderful group dynamic. The only relationship that I didn’t like was the romance (if you can call it that) in the book between Sam and Andrew. The relationship between them made me feel uncomfortable from the very beginning and it started to go in a slightly “love cures all” direction. I really did not like the idea that you need a guy to tell you that you’re beautiful in order to believe it, and I felt that the book started to go in that direction a little bit. But I really appreciated that the author actually addressed this later in the book and made Sam’s development and progress about herself, rather than Andrew or any other guy.

Overall, I think this was a really emotional and powerful read that a lot of young adults would get a lot out of. There were a couple of things that I thought could have been delved into a little bit further and developed more. But as a whole, I thought it was a wonderful story with lots of relatable characters and issues.

10 thoughts on “Review: How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah it’s definitely relevant, especially since it’s becoming more and more prevalent in society today! I thought this book handled it really well and had most of the psych aspects right. I think teens or young adults should definitely give it a go because it gives pretty good insight into anxiety and also covers a lot of different anxieties that they might experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nick says:

    I wasn’t sure about this one before, but you make me want to pick it up, Jenna. As someone who has had issues with her body image, I’m definitely interested in seeing how the author tackled it all. It seems like it’s done really well. Too bad about the romance feeling like it’s a love cures it all kind of romance. I’ll still check it out though.
    Lovely review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Yeah my only complaint was the romance but it ultimately plays a pretty minor role in the story. The book tackles the issues of body image as well as other anxieties really well and more young adults should definitely check it out in my opinion!


  2. Marie @ drizzleandhurricanebooks says:

    Oh this is such a great review, and I could probably relate to the main character because of all the anxiety and everything… I think I didn’t read a book dealing with these kind of issues, or it didn’t blew me away so I don’t really remember, but that one sounds really good, I need to add it to my TBR 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I’ve read a couple of books about these kinds of issues and this one is definitely one of the best because it focuses on a wide range of anxieties and is more relatable to a larger audience. It’s not just about the main character and I really liked that about the book. I hope you enjoy it if you do pick it up, Marie!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Valerie says:

    Awesome review Jenna! To be honest, I liked this a little less than you did, but I still thought it conveyed very important topics. And I was very happy with the way the relationship panned out, because I think I would have raged if it were any other way, hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rissi says:

    I’m really curious about this one. I think part of the reason was the eye-catching cover, and then, when I read the synopsis, I thought it sounded really unique. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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