How It Feels To Fly by Kathryn Holmes | Ballet and anxiety


Title: How It Feels to Fly

Author: Kathryn Holmes

Links: Goodreads

Synopsis: 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?

Ballet is brutal. Not only is an extremely difficult dance to master, but the dancers have to be a very certain body type, as well. A body type most people don’t have. Sam doesn’t have the desired body type; she has a not-flat stomach and a not-small chest and thighs that touch. In short, she’s a pretty average teenage girl, but in the ballet world, she’s absolutely huge.

Sam has grown up loving ballet to the point of an almost unhealthy obsession, much like her mother, who was an extremely promising ballerina before an injury forced her to stop dancing. She’s dreamed of becoming a professional ballerina, and was well on her way, until she hit puberty and her body started changing. Now, only a few weeks away from an esteemed ballet intensive, she’s sent to a camp for teenage artists and athletes who are struggling with mental and emotional issues; in Sam’s case, it’s anxiety and panic attacks.

I was super happy with how Sam’s anxiety was portrayed. It wasn’t the overdramatic, theatrical version of anxiety that tends to be most common in books. It had a very real feeling to it. It showed how it’s something constantly at the back of your mind, makes you question the tiniest, seemingly most mundane things, and how an extremely small thing (such as stepping into a hole) can make you spiral into a panic attack, simply because your brain starts coming up with all the things that could have gone wrong.

And while part of Sam’s anxiety relates to food, this isn’t a book about eating disorders. Sam loves food, and enjoys it while she’s eating it, but she constantly has that cruel voice in the back of her head berating her for eating too much of this or too much of that, or eating if she hasn’t exercised enough or eating something that’s not on her diet plan or basically any time she’s not eating one celery stick for a meal.

I also liked how it showed that everyone deals with anxiety differently. Sam attempts to hide from it. Another girl tries to act like it doesn’t even exist. It showed that no one deals with it the same way, even if they’re dealing with it for similar reasons.

Also: Sam doesn’t magically get better. She doesn’t go to this camp for two weeks, and she’s suddenly completely, one hundred percent better. Anxiety doesn’t work like that. No mental illness works like that. At the end of the novel she still has anxiety, she just has tools on how to manage it better.

Really, the only “bad” part about this book for me was the romance, if it could even be called that. It didn’t feel right from the beginning, and it felt unnecessary, which didn’t help. But I was glad with how it it played out.

All in all, this was a really well-written book, with a somewhat unfortunate romance.


Blogglings, do you like reading books about ballet? Do you do any dance? I, about the most clumsy person in the universe do not, but I sometimes wish I did. Do you want to read How It Feels To Fly? And should I read Kathryn Holmes’ first book, The Distance Between Lost and Found?

Happy Wednesday,


7 thoughts on “How It Feels To Fly by Kathryn Holmes | Ballet and anxiety

  1. I do have an infinite love for ballet, though I could never have the stamina to dance myself. But there is something so magical about the grace of dancers, how the music envelopes them in a soft unspoken wonder. Ballet is so very underrated, I’m afraid – it really should be recognised more as the beauty it is.

    It is a lovely thing to see a book featuring both ballet and anxiety – I always adore books with anxious characters, especially those whose disorders are (shockingly!) displayed with realism and empathy. What a wonderful book this seems to be. Thank you so much for sharing it, dove.

    Topaz / Six Impossible Things


    1. It seems exhausting, dancing. I have a cousin who does something insane like three hours of ballet a day four days a week, and she’s only fourteen. I could never do that. And yes, it does seem like dancing just gives you a kind of FEELING that’s impossible to get anywhere else and I’m somewhat envious of that.

      Liked by 1 person

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