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How It Feels to Fly Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Summer camp gets a whole new spin in this tale about the denizens of a performance camp. Samantha's physical development threatens to destroy her love of and future in ballet. She considers herself fat, and food is her enemy. Holmes uses flashbacks to give background information on Samantha's family's dynamics, and the protagonist's overbearing mother is at the root of her problems. Constant negative self-talk becomes less present as Sam learns to make her own choices at the camp for artists with anxiety issues. The well-developed characters attending the session are talented and highly skilled in their areas of performance. Some of the other campers include a celebrated football player, an ice-skating champion, and a tennis star. The internal challenges they face are varied and universal. Readers will recognize their speed bumps and find a character to identify with. Realistic dialogue and descriptions make it possible for teens to become flies on the wall as the fast-paced plot unfolds. The protagonists grow through their struggles individually and eventually learn to support one another. The author adeptly shows even the camp counselors as works in progress. A gentle, misunderstood romance between Sam and one of her counselors develops only as far as a forbidden kiss. Throughout the camp experiences, Holmes plants themes of self-worth, empathy, and persistence. VERDICT An empowering story for middle and high school readers searching for acceptance from themselves as well as others. A great choice for summer reading.—Elizabeth Swartz, Warrior Run School District, PA
“A heartfelt, hard-won story about following your dreams and confronting your inner demons...HOW IT FEELS TO FLY is for everyone who’s ever fallen and faced the difficult task of becoming whole again.” (Kelly Loy Gilbert, Morris Award Finalist for CONVICTION)
“Should resonate with driven readers and those with their own body issues.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“An empowering story for middle and high school readers searching for acceptance from themselves as well as others. ” (School Library Journal)
“Holmes’ look at anxiety feels wonderfully authentic, and readers will recognize, and sympathize with, the pressure Sam feels.” (Booklist Online)
“Very well written. A realistic and interesting read that teenagers can relate to and enjoy.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))
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Top customer reviews
Samantha gets sent to a camp called, Perform at Your Peak. This is a camp for any type artist or athletes that are having problems with anxiety.
All Sam wants to be is a ballerina, but when she starts getting snickered at and being told by her teachers and mom she needs to lose weight, it brings on the panic attacks.
I felt really bad for all of the teens in this camp because the stress put on them by their parents are worse than what I call bullies.
1. Sam - the ballerina
2. Katie - the gymnast
3. Zoe - the tennis player
4. Jenna - the ice skater
5. Omar - the theater kid
6. Dominic - the football player
All of these kids are going through their own kind of h•ll. And at first it seems like they are a group that will never be able to communicate with each other, let alone be friends. But, with the help of Dr. Lancaster, the college students, Andrew and Yasmin, they just might find what they are looking for. . . maybe just a little bit.
I very much enjoyed these characters. At first I didn't like Zoe, but once you find out her issues and get to know her, you realize you can't just judge a book by it's cover. I grew to love her character as time went on.
Sam is the main character on the book, focusing on her body image and panic attacks. But the other characters are very present in the book and we learn about each child's issues. I loved all of the girls most of all because they slowly formed bonds. I still loved Dominique and Omar as well but the girls were closer together.
There are moments of Sam crushing on Andrew the counselor but that doesn't lead to anything as it's not supposed to. Just some embarrassing moments for Sam.
Because I have these same disorders plus a few others, I always enjoy reading a book that have these types of things in them. I like to see different views and if they get it right.
Things change for each of the characters in the books. Maybe not the way they saw them change but they do change and they are all for the better. I also loved how they all remained in touch with each other after the camp. I would love that with some peeps like me and my issues.
Zoe, Jenna, Katie, Dominic and Omar, and I have had an ongoing email chain since everyone got home from Perform at Your Peak. Somewhere in the middle of the thread, we came up with our Crazy Camp nicknames. Zoe named herself Thelma after our Thelma and Louise-style road trip. I'm Barbs, since I'm coming to grips with maybe not being a ballerina after all. Jenna is Kwan, since she got Zoe to admit that striving to be like one of the greatest female figure skaters of all time wasn't really a bad thing. Katie is Bear, after Mr. Bear, her good-luck charm--and because it's funny to give the toughest name to the tiniest, bubbliest person. Omar is Bruno, thanks to that Bruno Mars hat he bought at the general store, and Dominic is Chunks, not only because he once threw up on the fifty-yard line but also because he's the opposite of chunky.
END EXCERPT ↑
Sam wasn't at the last bit of camp and didn't get to set her balloon free with the other kids so she did it herself and took a picture of it. I think I want to set off a whole set of balloons with my sayings on them.
Next to the collage, there's a photo of a tiny red balloon, barely a pinprick in the vast blue sky. Since I missed the last day at Perform at Your Peak, I had to release it on my own. I tied a piece of paper with the words "Take the leap" to its tail and let go. Feeling the string slip past my fingertips was like exhaling for the first time.
END EXCERPT ↑
TWO WORDS: INACCURATE TREATMENT
I'm a psychologist and when I read inaccurate portrayals of mental illness and/or treatment, I feel frustrated. I came so close to giving HOW IF FEELS TO FLY one star, but there were some redeeming factors.
-fairly accurate portrayal of anxiety
-some realistic consequences
-creepy/flirty camp "counselor"
-no such program would exist in that format (a psychologist bunking with 6 clients and 2 camp graduates think they're junior therapists where patients run amok a la the movie Girl Interrupted)
-Insta-dramatic-breakthrough (queue the background music)
-breaking into doctors offices
Kathryn Holmes means well. She wanted to tell a story about recovery from anxiety and very real body image issues that plague so many teenagers. Like many girls, Samantha hates her changing body, especially since she no longer looks like the long, lean ballerina she did before adolescence. She flirts with eating disorder behaviors and has many of the thoughts, her body image appears to be distorted, but not enough for a Body Dysmorphic Disorder diagnosis. A lot of teens suffer from sub clinical issues. In Sam's case, they cause non-traditional anxiety attacks. I like that Holmes focused on this population. Some of the activities she used might be used in a therapy program.
I have no idea why Holmes chose to go with Andy, the inappropriate program-graduate-who-thought-he-was-a-therapist or to (badly) throw around the concept of transference. I know writers often think they need romance in every YA book, but love doesn't cure mental illness, it often makes recovery more complicated. If Holmes needed love, she could have used one of the other campers more easily.
THEMES: anxiety, mental health, recovery, ballet, friendship
Teens with body image issues might enjoy HOW IT FEELS TO FLY and there's nothing harmful that should worry parents or therapists.
Most recent customer reviews
I loved every page. I loved everything. And I cried most of the way through it.Read more
Kathryn Holmes, an American author, pens a heart touching...Read more