Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Age Range: 8 and up
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (January 2, 2013)
Source: Library
Rating: 5 of 5 stars


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

all the ten years of her life, Ha 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. Ha and her family are forced to flee
as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America,
Ha 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.


“Open this book, read it slowly to savor the delicious language. This is
a book that asks the reader to be careful, to pay attention, to sigh at
the end.” (Kathi Appelt, bestselling author of Newbery Honor Book The

“Based in Lai’s personal experience, this first novel
captures a child–refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in
accessible, short free–verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes
her mistakes—both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved
by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.”
(Booklist (starred review))

“The taut portrayal of Hà’s emotional
life is especially poignant as she cycles from feeling smart in Vietnam
to struggling in the States, and finally regains academic and social
confidence. An incisive portrait of human resilience.” (Publishers
Weekly (starred review))

“An enlightening, poignant and
unexpectedly funny novel in verse. In her not-to-be-missed debut, Lai
evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic
heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found
themselves in a strange new country.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

About the Author:

 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. She then spent the next
decade correcting her grammar. Starting her writing life as 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 anthologies. Lai lives with her husband,
daughter and a little white dog in New York City.

My Thoughts:

Based on the author’s personal experiences, Inside Out & Back Again is
a physical and emotional journey of a young refugee girl. Told in
beautiful verse, the writing will invite you in and wrap you up in the

This book touched something deep inside of me. I did not expect to like
it as much as I did. I connected with the protagonist and felt like I
could relate to her journey.

Highly recommended.

Content: clean

Cover: I love this cover! It makes me think of new beginnings, hope, and happiness.

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  • Reply
    Adriana Garcia
    May 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Didn't think this book was so intense and about the Vietnam War. I thought based on the cover it would be a nice light read. I don't remember the last time where you connected with a story so much. Must be truly great.

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