Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Books I've Read: How it Feels To Fly

This is a book about body image and anxiety and ballet and treatment.  I enjoyed it, although I doubt there is really any kind of treatment center that works the way the center in the book does….  But I'm prepared to suspend disbelief on that one because it works for the story.  Besides, there are all sorts of kooks out there claiming to be doctors or healers of some type, and just as many people desperate enough to believe in the miracles they claim.

Anyway…  Sam is a dancer, and like almost every dancer I've ever met, she's driven, neurotic and obsessed with her weight.  Puberty has not been kind to Sam, and her adult body doesn't conform to the ballet aesthetic.  No amount of dieting is going to get rid of her curves.  But she - and her mother, a former ballerina - don't want to believe that.  So Sam just becomes more and more self-conscious about what she looks like, more and more anxious about what people are thinking when they look at her.

And it's this anxiety, when it manifests in full-blown panic attacks, that lands her in the residential treatment center for the summer.  Run by a single psychologist, with help from a couple of college students, the center is for high-performers who are dealing with some kind of issue.  Like Sam's body-image issues.

Over the course of the book, we follow Sam through treatment, navigate her rocky-at-first relationships with the other campers, and watch her burgeoning romance with Andrew, one of the college student counsellors.

Despite my suspicions that the treatment and the centre are not at all based on reality, I found Sam's emotions and reactions to be authentic and I enjoyed watching her learn and grow as she crawled out from under her mother's expectations and figured out how to be herself.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

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?


  1. I wonder if there was a way that the author could have made it seem a bit more realistic. I guess I'd have to read the book to see that for myself.

  2. Sounds like it's less about the treatment process and more about the ability of Sam to transform her thought process away from the negative perceptions of others and toward accepting ones like Andrew's. The treatment itself doesn't seem to need to be realistic; it's more of an allegorical layer. I don't know. I haven't read the book but that's how I would approach it.

  3. You know what this reminds me of -- but yours is so much more interesting.