Children’s Book Week review – How it feels to float

 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year –

Older Readers Notable List 2020

Announced March 30 – this book has been included in the 2020 Shortlist!

Link to Catalogue record for How it feels to float

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” – yes, I know, but I did this time! I’d used this book for a #bookfacefriday one day when I was wearing a striped shirt. So when I saw it on the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year – Older Readers Notable List 2020, I selected it for review without even reading the blurb.

If I’d realised it was about grief and mental illness, I may have made a different choice but I am so glad I picked this book.

Helena Fox writes so beautifully about a difficult topic. Right from the very first page, I was drawn into the mind and heart of the main character, Biz.

“At 3am, I think of hearts. I think of candy hearts and carved-tree hearts and hummingbird hearts. I think of hearts in bodies and the rhythm inside of us we don’t get to choose.

I lay my hand over mine. There it is.

It beatbeats beatbeatbeats skipsabeatbeat beat beat beat beats

A heart is a mystery and not a mystery. It hides under ribs, pumping blood. You can pull it out, hold it in your hand. Squeeze. It wants what it wants. It can be made of gold, glass, stone. It can stop anytime.”

‘How it feels to float’ is about Biz’s relationships with her mother, her best friend, and her dead father who visits to tell her about her childhood. It is about losing friends and making new ones, coping with grief, and living with mental illness. It is a difficult book to describe because there is so much to the story, yet it doesn’t feel complicated. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time.

This book shines a light on mental illness in a way that is both powerful and gentle. We see Biz falling apart, beginning to recover, and struggling again. She is such a well-written character and her story feels very real. This book has enabled me to see mental illness in a different and more personal way.

I liked the way Biz’s regular teenage life and concerns overlap with her depression and delusions – an accurate portrayal of the way that mental illness is just one part of a person, and how its effects can vary from day to day. I would love to see this book become part of Australian curriculum for older teens, and I also recommend it for adults to read (and love). It is suitable for ages 15+ due to content including sex, alcohol, and swearing.

‘How it feels to float’ can be reserved from Cockburn Libraries in print, or as an e-book through BorrowBox or Overdrive.

This book is beautifully written and there are so many quotes I’d love to share but I also want readers to discover them as they read this fantastic book. I’ve chosen one more quote that I found to be a relatable description of grief.

                an okay day and a good day and an okay day
                then a bad.
                Bad that follows you and empties you.
                Bad like a sinkhole.
It feels like
                an unrelenting urge to lay your head down on the table,
                wherever you are, whomever you are with.
It feels like
                a night of vivid dreams, and when you wake,
                all day you hold one dream close
                because in it
                everything is back to how it once was.”



  • Short-listed for CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers 2020
  • Long-listed for ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children 2020
  • Short-listed for NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Ethel Turner Prize 2020
  • Long-listed for Indie Book Awards Young Adult 2020
  • Winner for Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for Writing for Young Adults 2020
  • Short-listed for Queensland Literary Awards Young Adult Book Award 2019 
If you would like to learn more about this author, you can read her interviews with Penguin Teen or Booktopia.

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Click on the covers below for more young adult fiction about characters with mental illness, or search our e-resources for electronic copies.

Link to Catalogue record for Highly illogical behavior
Link to Catalogue record for A song only I can hear
Link to Catalogue record for Finding Audrey
Link to Catalogue record for Turtles all the way down
Link to Catalogue record for Paperweight
Link to Catalogue record for Wintergirls
Link to Catalogue record for All the bright places
Link to Catalogue record for Girl in pieces