Inside Out and Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
Reading level: MG
In 1975, ten-year-old Hà flees from Saigon with her mother and three older brothers. Her mother makes the decision to take the family to America, hoping for a better future for her children.
Making the adjustment to life in Alabama is sometimes difficult, but strong-willed Hà learns and adapts, all the while shrewdly observing what's going on around her.
One year of the family is chronicled in this novel of free-verse poems, voiced by a ten-year-old girl with a unique and colourful perspective.
I didn't realize this book was written in verse until I'd downloaded it from the library. I've never read a novel in verse before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect... or if I'd even like it. But I actually enjoyed Inside Out and Back Again quite a lot.
I was mostly unfamiliar with what happened in Vietnam at the end of the war. Hà's narrative provides a window on a time that many young people today don't know much about, and the short chapters of free-verse poetry make the story easily accessible. I liked Hà's family, the setting of Vietnam that she describes so lovingly, the trials and tribulations of a ten-year-old outsider in the American public school system, and the eventual reconciliation that the whole family must go through. The author's note in the back states that much of the story was based on the author's personal experiences. Realizing that real people did experience similar situations makes the story that much more immediate.
The book is classed as a middle-grade read, but there's nothing to prevent young adults or adults from enjoying the story. I'd recommend this one to fans of contemporary or historical fiction.
Overall: 4.57 out of 5