Jennifer's Reviews > Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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Jul 29, 12

bookshelves: orange-chapter, library-copy, poetry, multicultural, asia, war, asian-american, reviewed, newbery-honor, 2012
Read in July, 2012

An emotionally stunning book, perhaps because as a verse novel, the reader is able to rush through all the experiences in a brief period.

No, this story would be just as emotional (but likely less beautiful) had it a typical word count. Within just a few pages, the author had me choked up with worry over the fate of an unripe papaya, even while I was too emotionally invested to recognize the papaya as representing the main character.

And what a wonderful main character Ha is, her voice familiar when she lives in an alien world, and yet alien when she moves somewhere more familiar. For the rest of the day, her voice echoed in my ears whenever my students spoke, so alive and authentic is Lai's creation.

I am sure Inside Out will be repeatedly pressed into the hands of bullied children - and bulliers - and for once I find myself thinking such earnest bibliotherapy may have the intended result. Familiar enough to appeal to those children who want to know they're not alone, foreign enough not to put off others who want their individual troubles respected .. I, for one, cried several times, both as a child who was bullied and as a teacher who wishes for an impossible panacea. And as a teacher, I closed the book, pleased that the journey within was so much more than a simple story of one child's struggles in various hostile worlds.
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