Monday, September 02, 2013

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Emma is an American teenager who has grown up in Japan. When her mom needs breast cancer treatment, Emma is uprooted and brought to Massachusetts to live with grandparents. This free verse novel explores Emma's reverse culture shock as she adjusts to life in the United States. Emma is a girl who wants to help others—she is torn by the fact that she cannot be in Japan helping victims of the recent tsunami even though she knows she needs to be with her mother during her treatments. She signs up to volunteer at a nursing home and is paired with a stroke victim with whom she writes poetry. At the nursing home she also meets a Cambodian immigrant named Samnang who becomes a friend and a possible love interest, and through him she finds a way to contribute to relief efforts in Japan. While it seems like this book might have too much going on, it's really a quiet, reflective book about a year in the life of an sensitive and introspective teenage girl. I enjoyed it a lot and passed it on to Ms. Chapman, the teacher with whom I traveled to Cambodia this summer. It will especially appeal to readers who are interested in Japanese or Cambodian culture.

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