Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley 2008
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!"