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The Language Inside

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 ratings  ·  152 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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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,321 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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Jonathan Peto
Oct 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, ya, novels
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 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
Mar 28, 2017 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
Jan 16, 2013 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
Avery Fischer Udagawa
Dec 17, 2013 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
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Don't get me wrong, this book had some interesting things to say about multiculturalism and the culture shock and process of acclimation that comes with moving to a new place, but I didn't feel that it was really well developed. Out of all the various themes in the book (cancer, moving, getting used to new lifestyles) I thought the most interesting one was the romantic sub-plot, when I think says a lot coming from someone who has lost enough loved ones to cancer, has moved a lot (and understand ...more
Ali Michalek
Oct 09, 2013 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.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
“I know how to read the silence in Japan
I can read the air in Japan
but I don't have a clue
how to read the air here”

Written by Holly Thompson, The Language Inside was published in 2013 by the Delacorte Press in New York. The targeted audience for this book is young teens to young adults. My favorite character in this book would be Zena who is a woman that the main character, Emma meets. Zena is not able to laugh however she does have a little language with Emma. I do not recommend this book b
Emily (Prakash Biswas)
“I know how to read silence in Japan
I can read the air in Japan
But I don’t have a clue
How to read the air here”

Written by Holly Thompson, the language inside was first published in 2013. it is young adult, and about social issues; this book brings out the ups and downs about change, and how a person can adapt to it.

Teenager Emma Karas has lived in Japan for her whole life and even though she is American, on the inside she feels Japanese. When her mom gets cancer, they are forced to move to M
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
book i needed to read for school
nidah05 (SleepDreamWrite)
This was okay. Some of the characters were okay too. Writing was good.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
"I'm from Japan, is all,"
"yeah, sure, white girl,"
The author deceives the readers with a seemingly relatable TCK. A story with a message of hope supported with a wide variety of poetic devices. Yet, somehow Holly Thomson fails miserably at hooking any reader's attention in her book "The Language Inside".

The overused tropes of a teenage romance and a loved one facing cancer fail to keep the reader engaged whatsoever, and have not opened my eyes to valuable life lessons. Thomson tries desperatel
Lorelei Resnick
Jan 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
"I'm from Japan, is all,"
"yeah, sure, white girl,"
The author deceives the readers with a seemingly relatable TCK. A story with a message of hope supported with a wide variety of poetic devices. Yet, somehow Holly Thomson fails miserably at hooking any reader's attention in her book "The Language Inside".

The overused tropes of a teenage romance and a loved one facing cancer fail to keep the reader engaged whatsoever, and have not opened my eyes to valuable life lessons. Thomson tries desperatel
Debs Taylor
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful exploration of what it’s like to be a TCK, and feel out of place in your “home country”. While I loved it being a novel in verse, there were times I would have loved more exploration of the ideas and feelings. There were some amazing images, particularly when she wrote about Japan.
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 - thelookingglassreads
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 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 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
The Language Inside is beautiful. I gave it five stars, because it really is top notch in its genre. This book is written in verse, and is a quick read, but you can also take your time, let the poetry wash over you, take you in. There is the compulsory love story, but don't let that discourage you. The story is told from the perspective of a young girl who has lived her whole life in Japan, but is American by birth. What does it mean to be from Japan or from America, what part of you determines ...more
Apr 12, 2015 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 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 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.
Gabrielle Prendergast
Success! I got an ARC of this at ALA!
May 31, 2015 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
Alicia Peterson
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Language Inside is a book about a young girl who moves from Japan to Massachusetts for her mothers breast cancer treatments. At first I wasn't confident in how the story would go, although after reading the entire book I was very pleasantly surprised! There were so many different obstacles that Emma-the main character, had to overcome throughout her time in the states. Battling the loss of family friends, her mothers health, her new friends, and the separation of her old friends, as well as ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gr7
Lonely is
when the language inside
is not the language outside

Ok, so I have to say, it was a really nice story, and she sure knows what it's like to be a TCK(third culture kid) and the poetry was beautiful. However, I do have some criticism. I mean, from the way the book was narrated, I kind of felt that she was a middle-schooler stuck in a high school body. And about the decision she makes in the end? I think I could kind of see it coming. Plus, in the end, the whole thing turned about to be

I am going to recommend this book to my students. It resembles our beloved Love That Dog in that a kid tells a story in poetry as she reads and responds to real poems (unlike Love That Dog, which includes the poems in the back, the back of Language Inside just has a list, so you have to look them up yourself, but they are all readily available on the Internet). What makes this story even more relatable for my students, though, is that the main character is a girl their age (first year of high s ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
“Here, I don’t look like I belong in Japan. Here, I don’t look out of place. Here everyone thinks I must be “back” in Massachusettes as if this were home, but it’s not”
The Language Inside, Written by Holly Thompson. This book was first published in 2013 and the genre is Young Adult Fiction.
Some major characters in this book are Emma (herself), Toby, Emma’s mom, and Zena. Emma came from Japan. She didn’t like Massachusettes at all. She wants to live in Japan again.
This book is about a teenage gi
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the third of Holly Thompson's books I have read this year. They are so easy to read and it is a delight to be able to speed along so quickly. The characters Thompson creates are so genuine and likeable that it's sad to see them go at the end of the story. I love her celebration of diverse cultures and individuals - I always learn something new about other groups of people.
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Holly Thompson ( is a longtime resident of Japan originally from Massachusetts. 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 One Wave at a Time, Twilight Chant and The Wakame Gatherers and ...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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