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The Language Inside

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,179 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins t
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Delacorte
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(showing 1-30)
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Jonathan Peto
Oct 16, 2012 Jonathan Peto rated it liked it
Shelves: novels, ya, poetry
This book is written in verse. Thumbing through it, you might think there’s a poem per page. It looks that way because many pages are not “full”. The arrangement of the lines are certainly intentional and are often used to good effect, but I wasn’t always sure about the page breaks, though I had no specific complaints. I chose the book because I wanted to get through some fiction this weekend and it looked short, which it was, but I may have moved too fast to give all of it, such as the page bre ...more
May 09, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This is honestly unlike anything I've ever read before. Wow. This book is written in verse, which I'm pretty sure the last time I read a book in verse was in elementary school, so I was really hesitant going in. In the end, I enjoyed it so much more than I ever thought I could.

Emma has lived in Japan her entire life, so when her family has to move back to America because her mom has breast cancer, Emma is devastated. But her mother needs them, so she holds her head high and does the best she ca
Jan 16, 2013 Sps rated it liked it

Improbably likeable and satisfying. Possibly 3.5 stars. This book is the runt (despite its hefty size), the underdog, the dark horse, the long shot for making me like it because I do not care for books that layer on the themes like a Dagwood sandwich. And The Language Inside does just that: Japan, belonging, duty, poetry, the 2011 earthquake/tsunami, moving and adjusting to living with grandparents, family member with cancer, Japanese folk dance, Cambodian folk dance, Cambodian bloody history, t
Mar 28, 2017 Sesana rated it liked it
Nicely written, and Emma is an unusually believable "sweet" character. She does the noble, self effacing thing, but in a way that felt realistic. I've known girls an awful lot like her. This book's one failing is that it presents an awful lot of issues, but doesn't actually do much with them. They're largely just there, something to add color and depth to the book, but aren't dealt with in any real way. The love interest is the son of a Cambodian refugee, and though it's a given that his mother' ...more
Avery Udagawa
Dec 17, 2013 Avery Udagawa rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book for cross-cultural teens. Emma Karas grew up in Japan but moves to Massachusetts when her mother develops breast cancer. Feeling lost in her “native” US, Emma develops migraines and longs to help friends in Japan who survived the March 2011 tsunami. Life changes when she meets a boy who studies Cambodian dance, who introduces his own community’s devastating history. Emma processes loss and healing in poems that she writes with Zena, a feisty woman living with locked- ...more
Ali Michalek
Oct 09, 2013 Ali Michalek rated it really liked it
I really liked this one - I'm not always a fan of poetry styled books like this one but it was tough to put down. A girl and her family moving from Japan to America for her mother and learning to cope with what's going on around her. Reading the poetry within the verse was pretty interesting but very easy to get.
I’m a fan of Thompson’s Orchards so I was gleeful when I got a copy of her latest verse novel at the ALA conference. Unfortunately, The Language Inside just did not do it for me the way I hoped it would.

There are many reasons for that but first I must give credit where it’s due. The novel is very multicultural and inclusive of people with different experiences and from different parts of the world. It also discusses what it means when the language inside you is not the language you are expected
(Sara) Through the Looking Glass
The Language Inside is a meaningful contemporary novel in verse. I wasn’t blown away by it, but Emma’s narrative resembled stream-of-consciousness style, and I liked that. This story about a Japanese girl who moves to Massachusetts for her mother’s cancer treatment is one of love and newfound understanding.

Emma is pretty depressed and homesick at the beginning of the story. She is worried for her mother, restless that she can’t help her friends in Japan recover from the earthquake, and she miss
Jul 21, 2014 Jendimmick rated it really liked it
I am slowly being converted to stories told in verse by authors like Holly Thompson and Ellen Hopkins. They use this expressive medium to take the reader inside the minds and emotions of the narrator in ways that prose can never quite achieve. I say this as a very reluctant reader of poetry, so don't rule this book out if you don't think you like poetry. It's a novel, just written a simple and beautiful form. 16 year-old Emma is technically American, but has been raised from birth in Japan and i ...more
Liza Wiemer
Heartfelt contemporary free verse poetry that will hold your interest.

Japan is not a country I know much about, so when I had the opportunity to read The Language Inside, I was fascinated. Sixteen-year-old Emma shares her story about being raised in Japan and what it's like to return to America so that her mother could get treatment for her breast cancer. Emma feels like an outsider. She begins suffering from horrible migraines and longs to return to her friends in Japan. On the insistence of he
Sep 04, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it
First published June 17, 2013 (Booklist Online).

Emma has lived in Japan nearly all of her life and spoke Japanese before she spoke English. But when Emma’s mother develops breast cancer, her parents choose to move to Massachusetts for medical care, and Emma finds herself entering high school in a completely foreign world. With a little pushing from her grandmother, Emma becomes a volunteer poetry helper at a long-term care center. Another volunteer, a boy named Samnang, becomes Emma’s fi
Khantey Lim
Apr 12, 2015 Khantey Lim rated it liked it
Shelves: comfort-to-read
Well, this is not that good and not that bad. It was just because of the issue of the story is not that massive. It was just about a decision about a European girl who spent most of her life in Japan, but she has to move temporarily to Massachusetts. Later on, there's a pull factor that keeps her in Massachusetts.
Here is the most amazing part, the main character boy who is the cause that keep the girl in Massachusetts is Cambodian. He is from Cambodia. God!!! That's awesome!!! There's loads of
Jun 13, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, japan
I didn't realize this book was in verse until I started reading it. The formatting in epub was okay, although I did have to turn a couple of extra pages at times, so the pagination was off. Not unsurprising.

What was surprising was how much I liked it. I'm not really a poetry person. And to some extent it was even about poetry.
Ashley Gor
May 03, 2014 Ashley Gor rated it liked it
Good book, a bit hard to follow since the writing style is similar to most poems.
I also like and chose it because it was Japanese-related
Anyway, a good insight on some people who look like they're from somewhere but they're actually from a completely different place
good book, not much plot, but it was good.
May 31, 2015 Haley rated it it was amazing
I had other things to do, but this book refused to be put down. It is beautiful, textured, compelling.

next weekend
Cambodian food
in Lowell
39 Holly
Gabrielle Prendergast
Success! I got an ARC of this at ALA!
Feb 05, 2013 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Loved Orchards--like this one even better. The verse novel with its poetry within the verse is fabulous.
Michelle Arrow
Poetry is just something that is gorgeous and has so many feelings. It's certainly something that is difficult to feel, as well. To be honest, The Language Inside was really missing that good feelings inside and out from me. It definitely had the potential to be gorgeously remarked by my masterfully reviewing skills. But instead, I felt like I was being blown away.

Books that deal with cancer and depression always hit me in the heart, hard. I always, just always end up throwing the feels all ar
McKenzie Templeton
Mar 01, 2014 McKenzie Templeton rated it really liked it
The Language Inside was a a beautiful creative look into Japanese culture and the impact poetry can have on people. A unique mix of poetry, dance, family, and friendship inside a dramatic and romantic contemporary, this novel is interesting and creative beyond belief. An insightful look into Japanese culture, life after the tsunami, trauma, and many other problems, this novel not only is enjoyable, but also teaches many morals.

A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural wo
3.5 stars.

I originally picked up The Language Inside because I thought the cover was gorgeous, then I turned it over and saw it was about a girl who was raised in Japan returning to America for the first time since she was a baby, and became intrigued. I was also pleasantly surprised to find it was written in verse. I haven't really read any other books like it, so I thought I'd give it a shot, and ultimately, it was a fun experiment for myself and I thought it worked fairly well. Thompson's ima
Wandering Librarians
Emma grew up in Japan. It's her home. There's nowhere else she'd rather be. But Emma's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the family has moved to Lowell, Massachusetts to stay with her Emma's grandmother while her mother has treatment. Emma has never felt so out of place and alone. She begins volunteering at a long-term care center to help a patient who cannot move or speak write down her poems.

Emma is a poet, and the book was written in free verse. In general, I am not a fan of
Hallie Stiles
Nov 19, 2015 Hallie Stiles rated it it was amazing
Have you ever not been able to understand someone because they’re speaking a different language? Well “The Language Inside” is nothing even close to that. Holly Thompson writes a wonderful 517 pages of poems. A book of poems, that can be related to but at the same time be completely unlike your life at all. Emma’s mother gets breast cancer and her family has to move back to America, from Japan, for treatment. Holly Thompson writes a book that leaves an impact.
This book is completely worth tak
Andrea thebusybibliophile
Apr 15, 2013 Andrea thebusybibliophile rated it liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Emma, though American, has lived in Japan all her life, and considers it her home. When her mother becomes ill, the family moves to America until her treatment is done and they can move back. Emma misses everything about Japan and feels like a fish out of water with her school mates and everyone’s American ways. After she starts volunteering, she meets Samnang and they grow close.

There is a lot happening in this book – earthquakes, tsunamis, cultural differences, cancer, death, friendship, first
Amanda (Born Bookish)
Jan 19, 2013 Amanda (Born Bookish) rated it really liked it
Author, Holly Thompson uses free verse to weave together a great multi-cultural story about family, friends, love, hardship, and what to do when the language inside doesn’t match the language outside.

The main character, Emma, and her family move from Japan (the only home Emma’s ever known) when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. The family moves to Massachusetts to stay with a relative so that her mom can be treated in Boston.

Her mother’s breast cancer, the move - it all leaves Emma wi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Saylor Johnson
Apr 14, 2016 Saylor Johnson rated it liked it

This book is about a girl named Emma that lives in Japan. Her life seemed to be going good until a disaster happened. She was greatly affected and tried to help fix things. Just as her life began to get better, another thing she thought was never possible struck. This story tells how one girl can overcome it all with the comfort of her family and her new friends.

This book was good in my opinion because it was very intense and things were constantly happening. It shows how with the help of frien
Feb 18, 2017 Trpusey rated it liked it
Read for JSD Literature Selection Committee (3 of 3 books for the meeting in Feb 2017).
Vera Brackenshaw
Feb 08, 2017 Vera Brackenshaw rated it really liked it
When I first saw this book in the library, I put it down because of it's format. Usually, books of poems put me off. I don't know why - maybe because it's unusual, maybe because it's more of w workout to understand but at the same time feels lazy without paragraph breaks or punctuation or capitalization, like a previous poem book that I had tried.
But when I went to the library a second time - on my next visit - and picked it up only to find that it was the same book I had left, I decided to try
Mar 21, 2014 Relena_reads rated it really liked it
Shelves: ncte, arc, poetry, recs-for-em
On the one hand, this book is rather intimidatingly thick. On the other, it's sparse and willowy. On one hand, this book is filled to the brim with unlikely coincidences. On the other, it's believable and internally coherent. In other words, this book is filled with pleasant contradictions.

I think Thompson benefited from the unlikely quirk that I read this directly after a book that made me nostalgic for Egypt. The main character's longing for a place that others can't understand her missing is
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Holly Thompson ( is a native of Massachusetts and a longtime resident of Japan. A graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children through adults. She is author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon's Mouth, The Language Inside, and Orchards; the picture books The Wakame Gatherers and the forthcoming Twilight Chant; and the ...more
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“lonely is when the language outside
isn't the language inside
and words are made of just 26 letters”
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