Overboard by Elizabeth Fama
“Fourteen-year-old Emily boards an over-crowded ferry in Sumatra. When the boat sinks, she’s trapped by hundreds of panicked people. She finds Isman, a terrified young Muslim boy, floating in a life vest. Together, with Emily’s physical strength and Isman’s quiet faith, they swim for their lives.”
I will admit that I would never have picked up this book on my own. I asked my friend/mentor for recommendations for “Adventure” themed books for my class and she recommended the author E. Fama. Through the first 20-30 pages I thought perhaps I had made a mistake. I was reading about a whiny, complaining teen girl so nothing surprising. Then she boarded a ferry and her life changed, as did my reading experience.
Every moment of her life for the hours that she was in the water after the ferry capsized was well thought out. Elizabeth Fama took us along for the ride while Emily grew from a frivolous teen with few redeeming characteristics to a contemplative young adult struggling to save her life and the life of a young boy she meets in the water. Facing fear, fatigue, frustration and doubt, Emily makes decisions for her own survival as well as Isman’s.
I would love to read a sequel as I thought the ending of this 158 page book came far too fast. I would recommend this to a teen who is looking for a sense of adventure without violence (there are dead bodies in the water but beyond that, none), without sex and with no language issues. Because it is a short book, it might not overwhelm a reluctant reader. Elizabeth Fama does an excellent job of showing Emily shirking off the childishness of her actions earlier in the day and claiming her place in the world as a capable young woman.