Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Over My Head by Marie Lamba

Tags: middle grade, YA, contemporary, family, POC, swimming, summer


Sang Jumnal’s pre-senior year summer hits the rocks when her parents force her to take swim lessons and she learns that a beloved uncle has a serious—and expensive—disease. But Sang is tired of being treated like a kid, and so she jumps at the chance of romance with the summer lifeguard, heedless of how her behavior affects her friends and family.


I didn’t realize until after I had finished OVER MY HEAD that it is actually somewhat of a sequel to Marie Lamba’s novel What I Meant. Which means that OVER MY HEAD can be enjoyed on its own. It is a quick, sometimes annoying, but still gratifying look into a mixed Indian-Caucasian teen’s ups and downs.

The YA world very clearly needs more books like OVER MY HEAD, where the main character is of mixed race, culture is an important part of the story, but the story itself is not about accepting one’s culture or battling people’s ignorance of your culturally different family. Everyone knows a girl like Sang, a girl who is smart but is struggling with familial tensions, who is dealing with changing friendships and fending off the comments of less sensitive classmates. So, take an extremely relatable teenaged female protagonist, add in a dash of Indian culture, and you’ve got a setup that’s easy to connect to yet just different enough to expand readers’ horizons.

Younger teens may be better able to appreciate OVER MY HEAD, as I found Sang and a lot of her behavior a tad immature for my taste. Okay, yes, I understand that feeling restricted by your parents’ seeming lack of trust in your maturity level may drive you to do irresponsible things such as ditching your siblings or sneaking off in the middle of the night with a boy who may or may not be taking advantage of you, but I suppose this was something that I never did in high school (okay, maybe I treated my siblings poorly every once in a while. It’s what big sisters do sometimes, eh?), and so I felt that sometimes Sang’s actions felt a little contrived, a little overdramatic. Some other characters and their situations felt similarly unnatural, mean girls who acted like convenient nemeses to raise our esteem of our beloved protagonist.

Sang’s peers may for the most part feel forced in my opinion, but OVER MY HEAD depicts the nuances of Sang’s family extremely well. I really enjoyed Raina, Sang’s cousin who comes to stay with her. Raina could’ve been yet another shallow mean teenager, or a self-pitying mess, but she is at times shy yet determined, vulnerable yet resilient. Sang’s parents behave believably strictly as well as lovingly, and so on. I often feel like familial relationships are the trickiest things to depict realistically in YA, and so Marie Lamba gets numerous kudos for portraying the Jumnal family in such an empathic and rich way.

Overall, OVER MY HEAD may feel a bit young for high school readers, but younger readers will most likely find a bit of themselves, their frustrations and their desires, in Sang, and cheer this promising young lady on.

Cover discussion: I am no longer interested in discussing the covers of indie books. This is a pretty, summery picture.

Lamba Associates / June 27, 2011 / Paperback / 298pp. / $12.99
Also available as a Kindle e-book for $0.99!

e-galley received from author for review.


  1. I love that Indian characters are becoming more common in MG/YA! Over My Head sounds like a great read for middle schoolers who are looking for a unique, contemporary book with a little romance. Thanks for the highlight :) PS: Your cover discussion made me chuckle. Care to give any details on why you don't want to discuss indie covers?

  2. nice review. for 99 cents it sounds like a book worth considering especially with the POC POV

  3. Thanks for the review. It definitely sounds like it's worth the 99 cents for a Kindle purchase.

  4. This book sounds great! And I totally agree about the need to have more diversity in YA fiction.


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