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Butterfly Yellow

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,983 ratings  ·  414 reviews
In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country.

Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the lit
ebook, 320 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by HarperCollins
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cait It's written mostly in English, but there are some Vietnamese pronunciations and words scattered throughout the story. They are all translated immedia…moreIt's written mostly in English, but there are some Vietnamese pronunciations and words scattered throughout the story. They are all translated immediately, though.(less)
Nadine Jones No, much of Hang's story is difficult to read. I would not hand this to middle grade kids.…moreNo, much of Hang's story is difficult to read. I would not hand this to middle grade kids.(less)

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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,983 ratings  ·  414 reviews

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Erin Kelly
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Wow. Wow. I love H and LeeRoy so much. What a wonderful story about an unlikely pair. The writing is incredible, especially how the Vietnamese-to-English words are written. After I finished this book I had to take a minute to think about it.


OK. So it's the next day and I'm still thinking about how much I love this book. I'm perplexed by reviewers who were put off by H's English dialogue. Yes, it's difficult to understand at first glance (and even second) ... but that's the whole point. It
Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer
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I have wanted to branch out and read some of the more lesser written about Asian cultures. But I had to wait for them to appear in the book community! I was really super excited to hear about Butterfly Yellow and it's Vietnamese immigrant story!

And I just loved the title and the cover!! It's not straightforward but with the way Butterfly Yellow reads I think its perfect. It's all about language and expressing oneself when you are most d
Jennifer Blankfein
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Full review with AUTHOR Q & A on

When Hằng was twelve, her five year old brother, Linh, was taken away as part of Operation Baby Lift and sent to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War. She and her grandmother spent the next six years worried about his safety, wondering about his life and planning for their reunion. After spending time in a refugee camp, Hằng made the difficult journey to Texas, alone, to find her beloved sibling. Grueling travel,
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: high school and above
3.5 stars

The beautiful cover of this book and descriptions of a Vietnamese girl's journey to find her brother enticed me to buy it.  However, the cover art belied a harrowing tale of the brutality and horrors the Vietnamese boat people experienced trying to escape their war-torn land. 
I have mixed feelings about this book because it has all the elements of a good coming of age story, including a Texas road trip adventure of two young people who set out together in the summer of 1981 with differ
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I found the writing of Butterfly Yellow weak almost to the point of incoherence. It never clicked for me - the sentence structure was jittery and the word choice often incomprehensible, and that threw me out of the story almost as soon as I began. The characters never worked for me, I never understood their motivations or believed their stories, and I had a difficult time with the dialect and so never understood how they could communicate.

A few examples:
A tingle begins in her toes; her cheekbon
Liza Wiemer
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Update: I listened to this audiobook nearly two months ago and can't stop thinking about it! Is it on your TBR list? If not, add it ASAP. #wndb!!!!

Butterfly Yellow is a gripping novel that is rich on details, describing the harrowing struggle for survival as Hằng tries to reconnect with her brother Linh. They have been a part for six years, and Hằng's unwavering determination to find Linh will keep readers on the edge of their seats. He's in America and has a new family. Hằng is the sister who s
As a librarian this is a book I want to rip the stickers off and just hand to people who want something 'good' to read. It will sit on the shelf in the teen area - I'll make sure it is face out at my branch - and may not be picked up. I will certainly be thrusting in at people at a respectable 1.5 metre distance, thank you social distancing.

Teen books feature teen characters - they are not just for teens to read. Oh, why am I bothering here ... I'm preaching to the converted! This book is full o
Richie Partington
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: box7, fiction
Richie’s Picks: BUTTERFLY YELLOW by Thanhhà Lai, HarperCollins, September 2019, 304p., ISBN: 978-0-06-222921-2

“Up to 70 dead after boat capsizes trying to reach Europe from Libya”
-- headline from earlier this month

“I will remember you
Will you remember me?”
--Sarah McLachlan (1995)

“In the final days of the war in April 1975, Hằng thought she was so clever, devising a way to flee while her family strategized and worried. Every day newspapers printed stories about Americans panicking to save hundred
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: refugees
Hằng's takes her 5-year old brother, Linh, to be airlifted out of Saigon in 1975 (Operation Babylift), with Hằng left behind in Vietnam. She has felt guilty ever since, and gathers enough money to come to the U.S. after six years. Along her arduous route, she is eventually helped by a wannabe cowboy, LeeRoy. They go to a small town in Texas, where Linh (now David) is assimilated, and wants nothing to do with her, and Lee Roy is their only bond. However, for me, the book did not work for two reas ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was incredible and it was my first historical fiction in a long time. I didn’t realize how immigrants were treated here in the United States back in the 1970’s until I read this book. I loved the budding romance in the book while T tried to teach H how to speak English and how to read. Parts of the book was definitely comical and it was enjoyable all the way through. I just wish I could’ve felt a little more invested into the storyline. I feel like the romance was lacking towards the e ...more
Mar 07, 2021 rated it did not like it
RTC but before then: I probably should have stopped when the phrase "chubby gooey flesh" was used in one of the first few chapters but alas, I did not. ...more
Ms. Yingling
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hằng's brother, Linh, was taken in Operation Babylift in 1975, and Hằng was left behind. She has felt guilty ever since, and after six years, at the age of 18, has finally made it to the U.S. She is to live with an uncle, but shortly after arriving, she has her cousin drive her to the bus stop so that she can go to an address in Amarillo, Texas to find her brother. She misses getting back on the bus during a break. Another traveler, LeeRoy, is at the gas station,
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: diverse-books

TW: family separation, death of loved ones, PTSD, and war

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as much as I hoped to. I felt that not a lot was happening in the story to keep me engaged. It does not have much of a plot and is very character-driven, focusing on Hằng, a Vietnamese immigrant, and this wannabe cowboy, LeeRoy. I did not care about LeeRoy and wished that the author had included Hằng's brother's POV instead. The brother was a character I wanted to read more about and gain insight
Kelly (Diva Booknerd)
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uqp, bookgasm
Hằng's narrative is heartachingly tender. Her journey unravels to reveal her ordeal, the traumatic circumstances of leaving Việt Nam, losing her family, losing her brother, the traumatisation she endures in silence. Hằng's character is based on a photograph Thanhhà Lai encountered of a young girl at a Buddhist temple she visited, photographs of lives lost. Her journey is distressing and confronting, encouraging readers to examine our privileges. Although Butterfly Yellow is a fictional narrative ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I recently read an ARC of this wonderful upcoming novel about a Vietnamese young woman arriving in the U.S. several years after the Viet Nam War. She is searching for her little brother who was in one of the last rescue airlifts of children. A series of unusual circumstances finds her in the company of a "wanna-be" cowboy headed to meet his rodeo idol. This beautifully written redemption story brought me to tears. In turn, Lai's exquisite writing also had me laughing aloud because she brings the ...more
Sarah T
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
4/5 stars

Assorted thoughts:
-I need to preface this review by saying that this was quite a personal read for me. in the seventies my parents fled Vietnam for pretty similar reasons to the protagonist of this novel. She and my mother are basically the same age, in fact, and they're both from South Vietnam. Yesterday I told my mom I was reading this book and what it was about and how sad it was, and she got this faraway look on her face and said she never read things about this time period because
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
After six years and two months of careful preparation and unspeakable hardships, Hằng finally arrives in Texas in the summer of 1981.

Hằng knows that her baby brother Linh is waiting for her at 405 Mesquite Street in Amarillo, Texas. She knows that once she finds him she can stop planning, stop preparing. Except when Hằng does find 405 Mesquite Street, Linh isn't the little boy and adoring brother she lost all those years ago. Worse, he may not be the one who needs to be saved anymore.

LeeRoy has
I'm going to log this as read since I stopped reading about thirty pages from the end.

The story focuses on Hang who has fled Viet Nam following the Viet Nam war. Prior to leaving, she takes her brother Linh to the airport and hands him off to a rescue worker. Her family believes Linh has been kidnapped, so Hang's Ba works to get the family to America to be reunited with Linh.

My interest in the book has to do with the historical aspects of it. I am always interested in learning about different cu
Cass Moriarty
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Butterfly Yellow (UQP 2020) by Vietnamese / American Thanhha Lai is an extraordinary own voices story of the trauma of a refugee combined with the unlikely friendship between two young people. Inspired by the author’s own experience of being a refugee, this YA novel tells the tale of Hang, a child who – in the last days of the Vietnam War – takes her even younger brother Linh to the airport in a desperate bid to get away to safety. But while Linh is snatched from her arms and put on a plane, Han ...more
Humorous & touching. LeeRoy and Hang become friends--and then more than friends--as LeeRoy helps Hang connect to a long-lost brother. Hang is inspirational in her ability to overcome the inner and outer scars from her hard life in Vietnam and perilous journey to reach America. I look forward to reading more of this author's books. ...more
Sam Bloom
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars; very good, like her other books, though it took me a while to get through. I’d imagine that, (again) like her other books, this would become a favorite if I gave it a second read.
Krisette Spangler
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
4.5 stars

Hang, which means moon in Vietnamese, has been waiting six years to escape communist controlled Vietnam to get to her brother. She has sacrificed so much to make it to Texas, but her reunion is not what she expected. Her little bother is now eleven and has a new family. Hang is heart broken, but determined to regain her connection with her brother.

The story is sweet and touching. This is the second book I've read by Ms. Lai, and I love her writing. I would have given the book 5 stars, b
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads, vietnam
I must admit that I was attracted to this book initially by the beautiful cover. The fact that yellow is my favorite color and I love butterflies had me feeling like this was the perfect choice for my next read. However, the writing was very stilted and disjointed. The sentences didn't flow well for me at all. This has nothing to do with Hang's attempt at English - I actually found that I was getting better at "translating" it as the book went on. It was more that some of the descriptions - whic ...more
Azita Rassi
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
More on the side of 3.5. Wish things weren’t this black and white. Readers are practically told how to feel about everything and everyone. The target audience for this book is 18+ after all. Also, the bad guys are only the communists. The role of Americans in the Vietnam war is glossed over. Other than this, a nice enough book.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful well written story of a Hang, a young Vietnamese refugee, that comes to Texas to find her little brother -- only to find he doesn't remember her. The story is both tragic and funny (think Holes by Louis Sachar) as she meets a wanna be cowboy LeeRoy (Ly-Roi). I love how the book includes some Vietnamese language and her struggle to pronounce English . Wish there had been more perspective from David (Linh) - her brother of what he thought. This novel is definitely deserving of theNewbe ...more
Brandy Painter
This, like all of Thanhha Lai's work, is excellent. It is historical fiction set in 1981 and follows a Vietnamese teen who has suffered a terrifying journey to America to find her younger brother who was taken from Vietnam as an orphan in the last wave of civilians leaving before the South fell. Along the way she employs the help of a wannabe rodeo cowboy fresh from high school graduation with a brand new truck and a dream. This is a wonderful tale about found family that covers a parts of the h ...more
my heart is in shambles, i adored this!! such a sweet and sad story :')) lovely lovely lovely characters and relationships ahhhh!! i actually thought leeroy was hằng's brother for a good amount of time before factoring the age difference in.

i always omit mustaches and ponytails from my mental picture of dude characters described to have mustaches and ponytails, so bye leeroy's caterpillars, you were never here :))
Jun 11, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is haunting. Siblings ripped apart from one another in Vietnam and reunited years later as refuges in America. The horrors that one sibling remembers and the other is mostly spared. America offers new hope and dreams. Not sure that is true today.
Not what I expected, but such a joyful surprise. I loved that it balanced out the extreme trauma of Hằng's recent past, with a present narrative of full of prickly relationships and unexpected moments. As a teen I would have swooned over the romance of it all. ...more
Kate Olson
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aoc, young-adult
A tough and beautiful story of a refugee’s journey from Vietnam to the Texas Panhandle in 1981. Ultimately this is a tale of horrifying trauma, resilience, family and language.
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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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