Girl Overboard -- Justina Chen Headley
Most people would say that Syrah Cheng has it all -- after all, she's the daughter of billionaire Ethan Cheng, with access to pretty much any luxury imaginable (including a movie theater in her house). But really, all she wants to do is snowboard. Well, that and prove to herself, her family and the world that she's more than just Ethan Cheng's daughter. She's good -- so good that she's got a chance at landing a sponsorship deal -- until her accident on a strictly off-limits part of the mountain.
Now her chance at being sponsored is gone, her best friend's girlfriend is doing her darnedest to keep him away from Syrah, and the entire snowboarding community sees her as a spoiled rich girl who believes that, for her, the rules don't apply. Also, her older half-siblings despise her, her relationship with her nanny is much closer and comfortable than her relationship with her parents, and every time she thinks someone likes her for herself, it turns out that they want something. Usually a free pass to her father.
She's feeling broken and battered physically, mentally and emotionally, and she's got to find a way out.
It took me a while to warm up to Syrah. Mostly, I think, because at first she is so very self-absorbed. (Not that I'm saying that that's unusual or not realistic or really, that there's anything wrong with it! It makes sense that she'd be self-absorbed -- I certainly was at that age*. But sometimes it can still be hard to read about.) Once she starts spending time with Lillian Fujimoro, though, my feelings changed -- and fast. The more I got to know Syrah -- and the more she started paying attention to the world around her -- the more I liked her.
There is a LOT going on in this book. Syrah's snowboarding injury and her parents' reaction to it, her relationship with her parents, her relationship with her siblings, her reasons for being where she was when she had her accident, her relationship/growing romantic feelings for her best friend, her issues with her family's wealth, issues of abandonment, weight/eating disorders, cancer... The different storylines do compliment each other and they do mostly balance each other out -- but it's still a lot. One less, I think, would have strengthened the others. Then again, real life is complicated.
That aside, Syrah's coming-of-age is an entertaining and inspiring one. And Justina Chen Headley is just as inspiring -- she & Burton Snowboards have put together the Go Overboard Challenge Grant, which is an extremely cool program.
*Some might say I still am...