Saturday, July 03, 2010

Book Review: Girl Overboard, by Justina Chen Headley

Everyone assumes Syrah Cheng has everything she could possibly want. She’s the daughter of the billionaire Ethan Cheng, which means she’s got a bedroom filled with specially chosen antiques, a place at an exclusive school, and designer clothes. But her parents are distant and her half-siblings can’t stand her. She only finds happiness when hanging out with her best friend Age and on her snowboard. After her heart is broken by a snowboarder who was only with her to get to her father’s money, she narrowly survives an accident on the slopes, and has to learn to live again.

Syrah is a sympathetic and interesting character who suffers from body image problems on two levels. After her accident, she finds it difficult to trust her body again, and she also worries about not being as slim and perfect as her mother and her half-sister, Grace. Her mum puts a lot of pressure on her to live up to ideals of beauty, making her wear girdles and trying to control her diet. Syrah avoids looking at herself in the mirror and wears men’s snowboarding clothes to cover up her body. She compares herself physically to the girlfriends of the boys she likes, and her manga alter-ego, Shiraz, is, as she eventually realises, ‘a stick figure with an ample chest’.

The book is quite slow paced at first, I found I had to be patient as there is a lot of scene-setting before the real action begins, about halfway through. At that point it picks up and then I was engrossed until the end. I don’t really know anything about snowboarding but Girl Overboard was really accessible, you don’t need any prior knowledge of the sport to understand what the characters are talking about! I also loved that there were references to Chinese culture, it gave me a strong sense of Syrah’s family history and background.

I did wish that more time was spent on Syrah’s relationship with her parents. Her relationship with Grace was drawn and developed really well, but her parents went from distant to more friendly in a few pages. There is a lot covered in this book though so I can understand why the author wanted to focus on the other issues. I thought that what Syrah learns about her body was really interesting and true.

I would definitely recommend this book, as I said before I think it requires a little patience at first but it is well worth it. I am really looking forward to reading Justina Chen Headley's other books.

The BookDepository


  1. Sorry about the lack of a comment! I thought I had commented already! Brilliant review, Julianne! I read North of Beautiful for BI&SP Month, and absolutely loved it, and after this review, I may just have to get myself a copy! It sounds awesome! Thanks for the great review! :)

  2. Thanks again Jo! I wanted to read North of Beautiful for BI&SP, but I couldn't find a copy. I had Girl Overboard in my TBR though, and when I read the blurb I thought it might be relevant because of the accident, and it turned out to be pretty perfect for the theme!

  3. I love this book. The author did focus on a lot of issues and there was a lot of scene setting, but it got so much better later on that I overlooked it.

    My favorite parts were the Chinese history aspects, manga and when she was talking about snowboarding, a sport I knew very little about. This book does seem like a good choice for BI&SP month (which is a great idea) and I could really relate to Syrah's body image struggles as well.

    Thanks for the review!

  4. Exactly, MissAttitude. I've read books with that amount of scene setting that were a let down, but Girl Overboard was worth it. I loved the manga stuff, I wished we could see the pages in the book.



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