“Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Novel-in-Verse, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
It always surprises me how easy it is to fall into a novel-in-verse. You would think that the shortness of the words and story would make the story a bit choppy. Instead, it feels more like how people would think and talk. People don’t typically have long and elegant thoughts. They have shorter thoughts and sometimes don’t have a lot to say on the subject. The style of writing is especially fitting for a young girl feeling out of place.
The three pictures painted in the story were beautifully clear. I could absolutely picture the peaceful and terrifying life Vietnam. I could imagine the horrid conditions of the ship away from Vietnam. I see the different type of fear that comes from moving to a completely new and different culture. I always love reading about characters experiencing things I deal with all the time for the first time. Lai did a wonderful job of that. I loved seeing how American names sound to Hà. Even though it was terribly awful for her, I enjoyed reading about from a different perspective.
This is the second novel-in-verse with a historical fiction flavor to it that I’ve read. I have to say I really, really like it. The style of narration paints a wonderful image of what life is like during the time period. I also feel like I get to know the narrator so much more this way. It’s almost like the story is just between the two of us.
The bottom line? A wonderful dip into the world of verse novels!