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Listen, Slowly

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  6,047 ratings  ·  1,023 reviews
A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to M ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by HarperCollins
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Nora This book isn't in verse form like Inside Out and Back Again.…moreThis book isn't in verse form like Inside Out and Back Again.(less)

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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,047 ratings  ·  1,023 reviews

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May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-author, 2015
This is a really solid middle grade novel, but I may have really enjoyed this because it reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. I saw a lot of myself in Mai, particularly my experiences traveling to India and trying to communicate with my relatives their with their broken English and my broken Malayalam and eating the delicious food and dealing with the different world in so many ways. It really just gave me a lot of nostalgia feels.
Melissa McShane
Read for the 2016 YA/MG Book Battle.

Mai’s summer is ruined when her parents ship her off to Vietnam to be company for her grandmother, who’s received word that her husband, lost to The War decades ago, might still be alive. Bà is returning to the village where she and Ông lived, which means Mai will have the chance to “discover her roots” as her mother puts it. Mai can only see a summer away from Southern California, which is the only roots she knows—her friends and her life and the boy she has
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was so excited to receive an advance copy of this book!

I must admit, I first fell in love with the cover. It's simply beautiful. The colors, the lake, the figures... Everything perfectly matches the feeling of the book. Whoever designed this cover art is a genius.

As for the story, I didn't give it five stars only because I am not twelve anymore. Which doesn't mean that this book is only for young readers, but it teaches a lesson about culture, diversity, and friendship that is still fairly ne
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thanhhà Lại's second novel is also her first novel in prose. INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN announced her presence on the children's lit scene in a big way, winning both a National Book Award and a Newbery Honor. LISTEN, SLOWLY makes it clear that her debut was no fluke.

Mai is eagerly anticipating her summer with her best friend and crush, excited that at twelve, she's almost a teenager. But when a detective brings news that her Ong (grandfather) might be alive, she finds herself accompanying her grand
Book Riot Community
Mai is a pretty typical California 12 year old: living her first crush, excited about spending the summer at the beach. Then her parents force her to accompany her grandmother back to Vietnam to search for the truth about what happened to her grandfather, who disappeared after the war. Bitter and frustrated Mai slowly morphs into a selfless and considerate kid as she falls in love with the Vietnam of her grandmother, and with her own heritage. This is a lovely middle grade novel that, frankly, e ...more
More like 2.5 stars. I really liked the story but couldn't love the delivery. Maybe it was the narrator but Mei's voice was just so irritating and while I found her likable I had a hard time listening to her for the 6+ hours it took to get through it. I understand that the author was probably doing this on purpose to show how a selfish young girl can learn to appreciate her roots and show more care to her family but, oh the whining! That part backfired. I feel bad because I really liked her last ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's is really good, there are certain parts that I had to skip over though. It wasn't the best book I have ever read but by the end of the book it made me want to cry and and smile at the same time. ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Mong Nho Em Dem Tung Hat Mua"
When I read these words, I cried. Seven words that had built up so much suspense could cause me to cry and bring fulfillment and grief to Mai's grandmother.

I really don't know if this book has been far more sentimental coming from a family of refugees and immigrants, but this book just touched me more than any other book- maybe tied with "Inside Out and Back Again."

My family and I can relate to this book so much; my grandma herself still believes that my two aunts
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I personally enjoy short novels as they're pretty easy to read and usually tell a beautiful story, and thankfully, it is the same with this book.
Another journey of discovery, this time it involves Mai, the MC, tracing back to her roots. Having been raised in California, she is unwilling to travel to Vietnam, where her family originally came from. Told in a mesmerizing way, Mai slowly gets in touch with her roots and learn about the beauty of her culture: the language, the customs, the food, and
mira ♡
Nov 17, 2020 rated it liked it
review in progress-
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I felt it was a solid middle grade read. The story is about Mai being forced to got with her Dad and Grandma to Vietnam, her grandma needs closure on finding out what happened to her husband, Mai's grandpa, who went missing during the war. Mai is going as her companion while her Dad goes north in Vietnam to help needy kids. Along, the way Mai meets new people and finds out about her culture.

I loved this book! Mai made me chuckle thru out the entire book. I recently lost my grandma an
Barb Middleton
Anyone that has braved the streets of Vietnam knows the thrill of linking arms and shuffling across the asphalt as cars swerve around bodies like rocks in the middle of a roaring stream. Honest. It is quite the experience. The author captures this unique cultural feature and so much more as Mai, a first generation American born girl, learns about her heritage on a vacation with her grandma to Hanoi, Vietnam. Not that twelve-year-old Mai is looking for any cultural roots. "OMG," she's looking for ...more
Amanda - Cover2CoverMom
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2017
You can check out my full review on my blog -> Cover2CoverMom's Book Review: Listen, Slowly

Why it’s #DiverseKidLit: Vietnamese-American characters; Vietnamese-American author; Set in Vietnam

When 12-year-old Mai is forced to take a trip with her grandmother to Vietnam to find out once and for all what happened to her grandfather during the Vietnam War, to say she isn’t thrilled would be an understatement.  I have to be honest here, I was very tempted to DNF this book after the first few chapters
Ms. Yingling
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Mai is NOT happy that she has to go to Vietnam for the summer, since she and her friend Montana have plans to hang out at the beach all summer near their homes in Laguna, California. Mai's grandmother (Ba) wants to return to her native country because she thinks that her husband (Ong), missing in action in 1966, might still be alive, a belief reinforced by a Vietnamese detective. Mai's mother is a high powered lawyer with a case to argue, and her father spe
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is a really, really good one. In a way, it's a classic MG novel, I think, because it's one of those seldom-published (recently, at least) How-I-Spent-My-Summer-Vacation books. Reading this after reading Gone Away Lake, for example, is an interesting experience!

Mai leaps off the page right from the beginning - from her insistence that she's not bi-cultural but uni-cultural - all the way until the book's end. Her voice is fabulous; her voice is this story, quippy and vulnerable and young, and
Dinah Moore
Jul 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing


“I tell you of loss, my child, so you will listen, slowly, and know that in life every emotion is fated to rear itself within your being. Don’t judge it proper or ugly. It’s simply there and yours.”

This book was awesome. Mai is a great MC. She is a typical preteen and I loved every moment of her journey . This book is humorous and engaging and the perfect choice for #summerreading !
Continuing my TBR project:
This is one the oldest selection on my TBR list - Originally added February 17, 2015.

I really like multi-cultural books for middle-schoolers. This particular story is about a Southern California 12-year-old who is forced to visit Vietnam with her grandmother. The grandmother is going there to try to find out what happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. It’s about the ultimate importance of home and family. Glad I read it.
Julie Suzanne
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Audiobook review

--Frequent use of OMG & BTW by an annoying, fingernails on the chalkboard voice
--Sassy, whiny, OMG-toting middle school aged narrator who is that teenager you wish you never brought to Disneyland because she ruined the trip for everyone.
--The boy with the Texan accent who interpreted everything for her selflessly. Who the heck was he?

--the actress speaks all of the Vietnamese in the book, and speaks broken American English perfectly and musically. I could
A warm journey to Viêt Nam, but sadly from the point of view of a spoiled 12 years old American girl.

Mai's grandmother has to return to Viêt Nam during summer, so Mai has to accompany her. As she scheduled holidays on the beach with her best friend and isn't really interested in Viêt Nam, she's very disappointed and eager to come back to the US as soon as possible. Luckily, at some point, she'll find a friend and be happy to discover a new country (!).

I didn't especially enjoy the writing (it wa
May 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
After the gentle first novel by this author, I was prepared to enjoy this second book, but the snippy, spoiled, prickly, too-old-for-her-age voice of the main character jarred me from the beginning. Twelve-year-old Mai is furious with her parents for putting her on a plane with her grandmother (who is a lovely character, but drowned out) to Vietnam. Mai had planned to spend the summer on the beach with her (dreadful) best friend. Instead, despite herself, she finds a broadened world view and dev ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 really- it took some time to get into the book, but the ending had a great message. This was another book for my classroom book clubs, geared for my higher readers that deserve to be challenged with a book out of their comfort zone. This book follows Mai as she travels to Vietnam with her grandmother, and while Mai initially hates the idea of being away from her Laguna beach summer, she eventually comes to appreciate her Vietnamese culture and lave the family she has across the world. There ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. It does do a good job of sharing an almost-teenager's perspective of Vietnam but the story was slow and hard to get into. I had to force myself to finish it. ...more
Sarah Guo
Mar 16, 2017 rated it liked it
It was not as I expected it to be. I suppose I expected too much since 'Inside Out and Back Again' was amazing. However, 'Listen, Slowly' was not the best. ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
This is my second Thanhha Lai, and it's impressively distinct in style from Inside Out & Back Again. Both are great, but the voice of Listen, Slowly makes it my favorite of the two.

Right from the start, I adored Mai/Mia. She's such a middle schooler, aka a self-involved brat. Her summer has been ruined by the fact that she's being forced to visit Vietnam for the summer to help her grandmother with a mission to discover what became of her grandfather, who went missing during the war and was presu
This was a slow-moving but ultimately rewarding junior book. The main character is fairly annoying, but that is important to the plot and she does show true character development. I loved the setting and learning more about Vietnam's culture and language. I enjoyed this, but I probably wouldn't read it again. ...more
Brandy Painter
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again took the kidlit world by storm a couple years ago, garnering both the National Book Award and a Newbery Honor. Anticipation for her second book, coming out this month, is high. In my opinion, Listen, Slowly is even better than Lai's first book.

Mai has plans for her summer. Plans that involve hanging out at the beach with her best friend, Montana, and Him-the boy she's had a crush on since he talked ab
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 The first audiobook in a while that I haven't gotten bored with. ...more
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. My daughter actually picked it out at the library and I needed something to read on a camping trip. The cover was the thing that pulled me in at first. (I do judge a book by its cover...) And I knew this author had a Newberry award for another book she had written. (Which I haven't read yet - Inside Out and Back Again, I believe) The main character, Mai, is a 12 year old girl. To me, her voice sounded more like a teenager. Her obsession with "HIM", her jealousy of her friend, ...more
Richie Partington
Dec 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, box7
Richie’s Picks: LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai, Harper, February 2015, 272p., ISBN: 978-0-06--222918-2

“And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it’s five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates.
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopie! We’re all gonna die.”
-- Country Joe McDonald, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”

The Vietnam War drastically and irreversibly changed America. The debate over America waging war in Vietnam playe
Amy Rae
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm wobbling between 4 and 5 stars for this one. It's a strange book in some ways. The writing occasionally feels like a rough draft, despite the fact that the metaphors are on point, because when Thanhha Lai commits to writing from the perspective of a Laguna Beach teenager, she fucking commits. OMGs are peppered through the prose; the narrator loses her train of thought and "whatever"s it away on multiple occasions; various plot threads are purposely left dangling, because middle-school life d ...more
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Thanhha Lai was born in Vietnam. At the end of the war, she fled with her family to Alabama. There, she learned English from fourth graders and then spent the next decade correcting her grammar. Starting her writing life as a journalist, she worked at The Orange County Register. She switched to fiction, leading to an MFA from New York University and short story publications in various journals and ...more

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