Review: Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again
Book cover: stands under a tree. A purple-blue sunrise/sunset is in the background.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. 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 . . . and the strength of her very own family.

I seem to have a talent to never know that books that I read are verse novels. Inside Out and Back Again is another such book that gave me a pleasant surprise. This is another book that I chose to read for Asian Lit Bingo. The cover is so beautiful.

It’s #ownvoices.

I am a huge fan of child narrators for books about historical events, as I think that, it adds an interesting aspect into the storytelling. Namely, what are the children’s thoughts and what is most important to them when living through events that make history. It also allows for children to learn about history through a peer.

I don’t remember ever thinking of English as anything other than my native language, so it’s always very intriguing for me to read how people who learn English as a foreign language perceive the language. It makes me realise that while I think English is the most easiest language for me, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the most easiest language for everyone else. made me laugh quite a few times due to her comments about English, which was a frustrating language for her.

We also learn something about how people treated refugees from Vietnam in the US and how the refugees learnt to present themselves so they were seen as desirable refugees. It’s really disappointing that refugees have to present themselves as desirable, just to be accepted – and this isn’t even fiction, refugees have to do this in real life as well. This should certainly give us – as readers – something to think about. This is not just a story, some people had these experiences, and some people nowadays are going through similar experiences.

For example these quotes should give us something to think about:

“People living on
other’s goodwill
cannot afford
political opinions.”

“No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama.”

Novels in verse use the writing style that I feel conveys the most emotion and feelings, and once again, I was wowed by one. I can only recommend that you read it. This novel is well-suited for a middle-grade audience as well.

5 stars

Have you read Inside Out and Back Again? Have you read a different novel by Thanhha Lai?

4 thoughts on “Review: Inside Out and Back Again – Thanhha Lai

  1. I’ve been wanting to read this one but had some misgivings about novels in verse. I’ve read two recently (Long Way Down and Blood Water Paint) that changed my mind. Now I must get to this!


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