Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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Ten year old Ha and her family have to flee Saigon during the Vietnam war. They are one of the lucky ones who make it out before their home is destroyed. In America though, Ha considers herself the unluckiest girl in the world. Tormented by bullies and missing the familiar of her home she struggles to find her place.

Pros: Again. Beautiful cover. Full of so much life and really speaks to the core of the story. This book is about a ten year old but the subject matter gripped me and I’m sure it would any teen. It’s written in free form poetry so it is a quick easy read but it’s full of so much to ponder and chew on. Ha and her family are very real and deal with very serious situations but it’s presented in a very gentle way.

Cons: There is a church scene where Ha and her family are required to be baptized in order to be accepted into the community. It is not judgemental. It is from the viewpoint of a child that does not know why getting dunked in water makes her acceptable. The Lord’s name is used in vain once in response to the student’s mocking her about “Boo-dah” over and over again.

Rating: I would rate this PG 13 as it does deal with real emotional topics and there is the use of the Lord’s name in vain. Although, I think the way it’s presented in the book is a great springboard to discuss other religions with a teen.

Personal Opinion: I really liked this book. Got teary near the end as Ha dealt with one obstacle after another. It’s also great to see the other side of the Vietnam war. A side that included real people who lost their homes and families. It is an easy read but there is so much packed in there that I’m certain this is a book that I will read again and again to peel back another layer of the onion.

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Vietnam war
  2. Belonging
  3. Bullying
  4. Loss
  5. Being different/accepting people who are different

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3 thoughts on “Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

  1. I don’t think I’ve read any books period that really deal with the Vietnam war and getting the other side would be such a unique and interesting perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not really a war that anyone is proud of. I know very little about it but the emotional connection I felt for Ha in the novel made me want to learn more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • All I really know about it is how our soldiers were abandoned – and that my father-in-law carried many scars both mentally & physically from it. (I love how books can spark that interest in learning. Who says fiction doesn’t teach? I’ve never forgotten reading Rilla of Ingleside and running to the library to check out several books so I could learn more about WWI.)

        Like

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