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Girl Overboard    by Justina Chen Headley order for
Girl Overboard
by Justina Chen Headley
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Justina Chen Headley, author of the delightful Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) now brings us Girl Overboard, the touching tale of a traumatized young woman finding herself and her family - in the context of privilege and a passion for snowboarding.

The protagonist is Syrah, daughter of seventy year old billionaire Ethan Cheng (regularly featured on the cover of BusinessWeek and author of The Ethan Cheng Way) and his much younger (third) wife Betty. Syrah rarely sees her them and is constantly baited by her half-siblings Wayne and Grace, who are themselves old enough to be her parents. She is closest to her elderly nanny, Bao-mu. Her best friend since third grade - and regular boarding partner - is Age (Adrian). Syrah has a talent for drawing and keeps a 'manga-slash-journal' in which she portrays herself as 'knight on a shining snowboard' Shiraz.

The mystery that drives the story for some time is what exactly led to the backcountry Accident that took Syrah off the hills, put pins in her reconstructed knee, and destroyed her chances for the snowboarding career that she craved. Though her parents have forbidden her the slopes, Syrah has screwed up her courage to try again. But now when she wants to get back on her board and be with her best friend, Age starts spending time with his jealous ex-girlfriend Natalia - he had a determine-the-relationship conversation with Syrah first, but she dodged the question.

As the story progresses, Syrah - and the reader - gradually realize that the people around her don't match her own drawings of them. Lillian Fujimoro, a recent transfer to her school, turns out not to be the clique wannabe she seemed. They have a great deal in common and together organize a major fundraiser for the National Bone Marrow Registry. Syrah's mother, who constantly nags her about her weight, turns out to have had a very hard childhood and to be alienated from siblings she never mentioned to her daughter. And Syrah comes to the realization that she herself has treated her best friend badly.

Of course, Justina Chen Headley weaves all these threads together into an inspiring and very touching story, whose heroine discovers what really matters - and, just as important, what doesn't - in her life, and concludes that 'Life is adventure, not just survival.' Girl Overboard is just as good a read as Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) and that's darn good; don't miss either of them!

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