3 Sentence Summary
Helena Fox’s debut novel “How It Feels to Float” explores the journey of Biz, a teenager grappling with grief, mental illness, and her own sexuality. Set in Australia, the story explores Biz’s experiences with loss, her emotional struggles, and her quest for self-discovery. Fox has captured the complexities of Biz’s mind and invites readers to empathize with her journey of healing and acceptance.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 384
First Published in: 2019
Content Warning: The summary contains mention of adult intimate content as depicted by author in the book.
Below is the detailed yet quick How It Feels To Float book summary:
The story unravels in sharp, unnamed chapters through the immersive first-person account of Elizabeth “Biz” Grey, an 16-year-old Australian schoolgirl. The opening scenes find Biz engaged in an intimate nocturnal conversation with her late father, bringing an eerie resonance to her life. In the light of day, she grapples with her burgeoning feelings for Grace, signified by a spontaneously intense kiss shared by the pool. Biz’s world often feels untethered, as if she’s floating above it all, her personal struggles neatly tucked away beneath an aura of tranquility.
As the narrative progresses, a newcomer, Jasper Alessio, walks into Biz’s life. His long hair and limping gait pique Biz’s interest. During a beach party in his inaugural week, Biz finds herself irresistibly drawn into the ocean’s embrace, only to be saved by Jasper as the waves try to claim her.
Further down the line, another beach party turns sour when an inebriated Tim advances towards Biz, who firmly turns him down. This incident takes an unsettling twist as Tim spins tales of intimacy, painting Biz in an unfavorable light, sparking her wrath. When Grace falls victim to similar rumors, the duo retaliate by hurling a rock through the rumor-starter’s window.
This act of defiance results in both Biz and Grace facing suspension. Grace is promptly whisked away to a new school by her parents. All this while Biz finds herself unable to face her old school. This sparks a period of aimless drifting in Biz’s life, prompting her mother to engage a psychologist.
Encouraged to embrace the present and to release the ghost of her father, Biz finds solace in a night photography class. Here, she encounters the vibrant octogenarian, Sylvia, who becomes a source of joy and companionship. Little does Biz know initially that Sylvia shares a familial link with Jasper – she is his grandmother.
Biz experiences an unusual, mystical connection with her photography, wherein her photographs seem to narrate tales of their subjects. Meanwhile, Jasper, having left school for a surgery and subsequent recovery, is prepping for his return, according to Sylvia. However, despite her budding friendship with Sylvia and her newfound fascination with photography, a profound sadness continues to plague Biz. It is occasionally accompanied by debilitating panic attacks.
On her 17th birthday, we find Biz and Jasper’s bond has solidified. Their beach outings provide a safe, comforting haven for Biz, and it’s revealed that Jasper identifies as gay, which maintains their relationship platonic. Despite the comfort Jasper provides, Biz keeps her spectral conversations with her father to herself. A new plan takes shape, to visit her birthplace in Sydney. A locale imbued with memories of her parents, and Jasper agrees to accompany her on his motorbike.
Part 3 – How Does “How It Feels To Float” Book End?
Post their trip, Biz feels a compelling need to visit her father’s childhood home in Temora. Its a sheep farm nestled on the fringes of the Outback. Departing in secret, she’s surprised to find Jasper waiting at a midway station, having received her departure email. At the farm, she uncovers a shocking truth about her family’s past; her grandfather’s mysterious drowning after his wife’s desertion, which leads her to believe her father’s demise mirrored the same tragedy.
Overwhelmed by these revelations, Biz lands in a psychiatric hospital. She finds her mother, Jasper and a visiting Grace by her side. As she begins to open up about her father’s spectral visits, Biz finally bids him farewell, watching his figure fade away. Strengthened by medication, the support of her loved ones, and her renewed passion for photography, Biz finds solace in accepting life’s tumultuous mix of joys and sorrows. She eagerly anticipates what the future holds for her.