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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai

I was just thinking that most of the novels in verse I read are not historical fiction, they're contemporary, and then I realized I'd just blogged about one that was (Karma, here) and Out of the Dust, a previous Newbery winner was one, and then there's Witness. OK, so maybe it's more than I thought, although I still stick by my original thought that most are contemporary.

Anyhooooo, a lot of people thought this might win the Newbery, and obviously a lot of people were close to right, as it did win a Newbery Honor. Again, I was feeling pretty good because I had already read this one, and I didn't have a lot of plusses in that column this year.

this novel in verse tells the story of a young immigrant girl who moves with her mother and brothers (her father is missing in the war) from Vietnam (at the end of the war) to Alabama. I think if even I moved to Alabama it would be quite a shock to the system, but imagine moving there from Vietnam. It is not an easy thing, and I thought one of the most poignant moments was when the young narrator, Ha, said that sometimes she felt that she'd rather be in Vietnam even as bad as it was than living in the US. I think it's easy to feel a little superior here, like we've got everything figured out and we're so great and who wouldn't love it here, but honestly, not everything is great here, and of course people miss what they know. Not to mention some people were pretty nasty to Ha and her family, which is sad. But some people were lovely, and it's a great things when she finds them.

Amazingly, this story is based on the author's own life. I thought this was very well done and worthy of a Newbery award. Highly recommended for people who like novels in verse. If you haven't read a lot of novels in verse, this might not be the best one to start with. Or maybe it is. You tell me if you try it.

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