SOUL SURFER: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
Bethany Hamilton, with Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. . Pocket/MTV Books, $18 (213pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-9922-4
Hamilton, a 14-year-old aspiring professional surfer from Kauai, Hawaii, made headlines last fall after she lost her arm in a shark attack. With the help of writer Berk and Bundschuh, a pastor whom the teen calls her "spiritual advisor," the teen offers an upbeat and candid—if somewhat meandering—chronicle of her life. She opens with the shark attack, then fills in details before and after this tragic incident, giving priority to the topics pinpointed in the book's subtitle. Her fervent faith surfaces often in her account: her church youth group figures prominently in her life, she prays before each surfing competition, she states that "Being tight with God is even more important to me than surfing" and, in discussing "God's plan" for her, states, "if I can help other people find hope in God, then that is worth losing my arm for." Hamilton offers copious background information about her close-knit family and her passion for surfing, as well as expressions of gratitude for the post-attack outpouring of support and donations from friends and strangers. Despite her narrative's sometimes overly zealous inspirational overtones, Hamilton's optimism, determination and resilience (she climbed back on her surfboard within a month of the attack) are undeniably impressive and uplifting and may well reassure teens dealing with distressing or life-altering events. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 11/08/2004