Review #6 Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Anyone who likes reading or even wants to like reading, will enjoy this book. Inside Out & Back Again is a Coming of Age novel, written about a girl named Hà who endured a series of life changes during the war in Vietnam. The novel is written in verse–a unique and short prose, so the novel was easy to read and surprisingly visual.
Hà loves Saigon. She loves the festivals, the foods, traditions and, more than anything, papayas. We learn, in the beginning, the traditions of Tết, the Vietnamese New Year. Her naturally rebellious nature shows in the first couple chapters while she breaks a rule or two, touching the floor before anyone on Tết and pinching the girl at school who seems to be the “teacher’s pet” of her class. Hà lives the simple, but full life of a child. The only issue is the war. Her father was captured and Hà’s family still struggles with the hope that he will return to them. Even worse, Hà discovers that her family, though they promised to wait for her father’s return, will leave Vietnam. Hà and her brother promise each other they won’t leave their home, else they will lose everything. Hà will lose the papaya tree she had been trying to grow and her brother will lose the baby chick he wanted to raise.
Before they have the chance to fight it, though, Hà and her family climb aboard a ship and head for America, where they will be safe from the war, but away from their families. Hà dreams of eating papaya and the traditions she watched fade onto the horizon, but the reality has yet to hit. She believes she will still see her father and her tree. Her brother walks around the ship for days, eventually revealing his dead chick that he couldn’t bring himself to let go of.
The family arrives in America and claims Christianity in order to get a sponsor. A family from Alabama chooses to sponsor them and they move. Hà struggles at school, discovering that her culture and race make her the victim of bullying, whereas she was the bully back at home.
Nothing tastes good. She is offered dried papaya by her language tutor, but it doesn’t taste the same. Nothing does. Hà dreams of Saigon, wishing to be there in wartime as opposed to America. She could barely understand those who spoke to her, and struggled to reply when she did. After names such as “pancake face,” Hà realized how little she truly fit in.
After a while, though, Hà learned to adapt, catching rides home with her brother or cousin and trying not to spit her English words when she spoke. She chased the memory of her father, but knew she had to let it go when her mother lost a ring–the last known memory of her father. Hà and her family needed to move on, and the loss of the ring made the decision final.
Overall, this book had a great impact. I saw inside the mind and past of a child going through an event I never will experience. It gave me a new perspective and a different way to see things, because I know a little of what people have to go through when making such a large step, going to foreign countries. New languages, new people, new… everything.
I definitely liked this book and, if there was anything I didn’t like, it was the writing style. I know, I’m contradicting myself. But… it’s true… I loved how the author was able to use the style in such a way that I understood, saw, and imagined everything she did (-ish) in such few words, however, it took a chapter or two to get used to. I’m not accustomed to verse unless it’s in poetry. I bracketed the sentences in my mind because of the verse writing style… and that’s not necessarily bad… just more difficult to grasp until you get used to it. Other than that, though, I can’t think of much. It was short because the verses cut the pages in half… quarters, maybe… but I loved the story. I loved what I saw and took from it. I loved that the author explained the true source of the story’s idea… I love that she actually experienced most of these things and made an interesting, diary-like dated story to it.. just wonderful.
And yet, rating it is so hard. I rated #5 a 4.5 because I tried to remove my bias against enjoying inspirational books, because the story was awesome, but I loved this one and it’s my genre.. Yes… I’m claiming fiction… It’s mine.
Let’s see… I’ll give it…
I hope y’all have a wonderful weekend. May God bless it along with your Easter.