Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Girl Overboard

Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley 2008

Rating: 5/5

IQ "Isn't it funny that what the Japanese authors consider their first page is our happily-ever-after last one? When you think about it, it's not a bad way to approach life. What appears to be an ending-heartbreaking wounds that you can and cannot see-may just be a beginning, a start of a brand-new adventure." Syrah pg. 334

Syrah has it all. Her father, Ethan Cheng is a billionaire and Syrah gets whatever she wants. Except money can't buy her health. After a snowboarding accident that keeps her from snowboarding (both physically and mentally) again anytime soon, Syrah really doesn't have anything to occupy her time with. She's a loner; people only want to be friends with her because of her money, her half-siblings resent her, her parents ignore her (unless her mother wants to criticize her weight), her ex-boyfriend only wanted to be with her because of the influence of her father and her best friend's (Adrian) girlfriend is forcing Adrian (nicknamed Age, which I think is an odd nickname) to choose between her and Syrah. It's a lot to deal with, along with nursing her knee back to health.

We need more books like Girl Overboard. A smart heroine with a dry sense of humor who *gasps* actually participates in a sport (but that's another post for another day). This novel could have so easily fallen into the trap of being a "poor little rich girl" novel (the ones where you're supposed to feel sorry for the rich girl, but you really don't because she's a rich brat and you can't wait for karma to kick in....). Fortunately, it avoids the trap. Syrah is quiet, but she does find her voice. Syrah's growth as a character isn't rushed either, it takes her a while to come out of her shell. At first, I was frustrated with her shy and hesitant attitude, especially concerning possible friends. However, as readers delve further into Syrah's backstory, we come to understand why she is so cautious. One of my favorite things about this book is Syrah stepping up to her name's full potential. Syrah is a wine (which I forgot while reading the novel but remembered upon rereading If You Come Softly, where the wine is mentioned) and that's all I'm going to say on that. I thought it was a clever tie-in and one that wine lovers will appreciate. To top it all off, Syrah draws manga. I thought that was very cool and so uncommon to see in YA (honestly, this whole novel is refreshingly uncommon. A rich Asian girl who loves snowboarding). Some of the best scenes are when Syrah describes the thrill snowboarding gives her. Her passion for the sport sweeps through and will make you want to grab a board yourself and join her on the mountains.

Girl Overboard explores deeper issues that were unexpected. I was pleasantly surprised by the author providing glimpses into the life of those who lived during the Cultural Revolution in China. The novel also touches on issues concerning adoption, how girls are viewed in sports (specifically snowboarding), self-esteem and love. A large part of the success of this book in tackling these issues is that it never topples over from seriousness. The novel is lighthearted and the characters play a huge role in making it work so well. All the characters are well developed, including the parents (another rarity in YA). The reader gains a clear picture of Syrah's parents and there is so much more to them than meets the eye. Syrah is ignored by her parents and is raised by Bao-mu. Bao-mu was a great character too, you would think the nanny would be ignored. That is not the case. Although I did want to learn more about her. The story of the mother completely blew me away, it was so unexpected. Also, I loved that Adrian was Latino. I love interracial friendships :) Then, social justice comes out of nowhere, which I also adored.

Girl Overboard is realistic fiction at its finest, complete with authentic characters, self-esteem, friendships, love, culture, activism and sports all neatly presented in a snow globe (how about that comparison? haha). The only disappointing thing was no romantic closure. Which isn't really a disappointment since life is an open book (Oh cliches! How I adore you so), but I was personally rooting for a decisive outcome. This novel has so much more to it than meets the eye, go buy it now! This is one of my top read books of 2010. I loved it so much. But enough raving on my part, I'll wait till you get the book and rave about. 8th grade and up

While I've read and loved North of Beautiful (I need to re-read it and review it), I think Girl Overboard is my favorite book by Justina Chen Headley (so far). I still need to read Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies).

Spoiler: Highlight to read: If you've read the book, do you not agree that one of the best scenes is when Syrah says to Jared "There is no such thing as a free lunch. And by the way, I would never have been your free pass to Paradise." Then she stares at Jared "so that I'll remember him him clearly; [...' tall, dark, and totally dumb-founded." pg. 286 Syrah then hands him the hot chocolate and walks away. When I read this, I danced around the room chanting "girl power!"


  1. Eeee, GIRL OVERBOARD. I can never decide whether or not GO or NBTT is my favourite. I love how Syrah was so many things, and doesn't fit into your stereotyped box. (Kinda reminds me of I Wanna Be Your Shoebox.) Anddddd yeah, spoiler moment was my favourite too. There's another moment like that in NBTT, but I think out of the two I like the one in GO better. (It's a close call though!)

    As you read NoB, I totallyyyyyyy squeed at the Syrah cameo. lawl. 8D Syrah/Age FOREVA

  2. I love this book! NBTT is pretty good as well.

  3. I loved the spoiler moment. Girl Overboard was so good.

  4. I've been hanging out waiting for you to review this one, because a girl into an extreme sport is soooo unusual in YA. There are footballing girls and a few tennis players, maybe a couple of ice dancers...but where are the extremists (I suppouse one problem is you have to sort them out with a lot of cash to get them into the sport).

  5. Yay! I'm glad you like this book! <3

    I was pleasantly surprised by the author providing glimpses into the life of those who lived during the Cultural Revolution in China.

    I like the nod towards generational differences too, because the immediate fall-out of the Cultural Revolution is something Betty (and her sisters) personally remembers and lived through, but to Syrah, it's a long time ago.

  6. So nice to hear that someone else read and liked this book. I keep forgetting about it in my recommendations to students. Thank you for the reminder!

  7. Ahhh, another book with a female athlete! Sweet. I was trying to think of more books with female athletes, lol. I couldn't finish this book, but I'm glad you gave it a 5/5. And I agree, we could always do with more books like this one. :)

  8. Great review of what sounds like a great book. You had me at the IQ, but the spoiler has moved it to the top of my YA TBR. Sadly, my library doesn't have Toads and Diamonds; I'm going to see if I have better luck with this one.

  9. This book sounds amazing. (Which is really saying something, since I don't usually read realistic fiction, much less one about an athlete.) I'll have to remember to check this one out!

  10. @Ah Yuan- Syrah had a CAMEO in NoB?! Well I obviously missed it because I read NorthB first. Ok now I really need to go back and read it. I completely agree (even if the nickname Age is kinda bleh). You can't put Syrah in a corner!

    @Priya-Soooo good. I could just gush. lol. I think I'll read NBTT first, then NoB. But idk since now I know Syrah re-apperas briefly in NoB!

    @Doret-Girl power! It was classic.

    @Jodie-I know, we need so many more books about girls in sports of all kidns, extreme and everyday. Also, something Girl Overboard talks about is how in snowboarding for girls it pays to be pretty. And Syrah doesn't think she's pretty. So I thought that was interesting to read about. Maybe next year I'll host a girls sport YA/MG challenge. ooo

    @Handyhunter-Yes! And it's not a perspective we learn much about in history class. I've always been interested in China and this book got me even more interested in reading up on the history of China (along with Great Call of China, so cute and original!)

    @Helen-Definitely recommend it to everyone! I will be, especially when people need sports recommendations.

    @Steph-I'm sorry to hear that. I really like JCH's work. Seriously, more girl sports literature!

    @Niranjana-you read the spoiler before the book?! lol. I do that too sometimes. I hope your library has this one *fingers crossed*

    @Heather H-I'm curious, why don't you read realistic fiction? I know that I really connected with this book in part because I'm an athlete and I really like sports. Do check it out!

  11. I wonder if Age is pronounced Aje? It comes up as a nickname for Adrian on google.

    Also, something Girl Overboard talks about is how in snowboarding for girls it pays to be pretty. And Syrah doesn't think she's pretty.

    Is this when Syrah was talking about sponsorships? I think she mentions that most snowboarders (who get sponsorship) are white. I like that there was an acknowledgement of race issues without the main theme of the book being about race or assimilation.

    I've added "The Great Call of China" to my TBR list since your review on it!

  12. This looks great! I don't usually go for realistic fiction, but the heroine drawing manga sounds like enough to push this right across the line of "must read."

  13. "I'm curious, why don't you read realistic fiction?"

    It's not that I don't EVER read realistic fiction; I just almost always prefer to read the fantasy kind. (I'm a HUGE fantasy junkie, heh.)

  14. @Handy-I'm sure Aje is how it's pronounced. Yup, that's when Syrah is talking about sponsorships which are crucial in any sport if you want to go far. Me too, I don't want race to always be the main focus. Those stories are important, but racisim is a lot more subtle these days and that was explorered quite well in GO.

    Glad to hear it about The great Call of China! It was cute and suprising (in a good way) read. And thanks for coming back to see if I replied :) I'm trying to reply more, but I'm not sure if people since it since they don't always reply back.

    @anica-I'm so suprised by the number of people who don't read realistic fiction. Well I can understand if you're an adult why you don't read it much. The manga drawing was interesting! I didn't even know manga was written backwards (or what is considered backwards in America). it's very neat, since Syrah's manga drawings are of the "cooler" her.

  15. @Heather-Ahh I see. I understand. I'm a huge historical fiction junkie :)

  16. This sounds exactly like something I'll love. Definitely intrigued by the extreme sports aspect, and I'm getting more into realistic fiction this year so this sounds like win. Just this minute ordered it. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

  17. Since I read this after seeing it in your New Crayons, I've been delaying reading your review until after finishing mine.
    I'm so happy to see how much you enjoyed reading GO.
    I agree with so many of your thoughts, although now I'm sad that I left out how great Bao-mu is.
    Oh well.
    And, yes, that scene is amazing.

  18. Have not heard of this. The premise sounds great!

  19. THANK YOU for reading and reviewing GIRL OVERBOARD. I am so blown away by the love you've showered on Syrah. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!


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