The Language Inside

The Language Inside

by Holly Thompson

Hardcover

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Overview

A nuanced novel in verse that explores identit, friendship, love, loss, and home in a multicultural world.

For Emma Karas, Japan is home. It is where she has lived almost her entire life. But when her mother falls ill, Emma’s family moves in with her grandmother, back in Massachusetts. Emma is desperately homesick. She feels out of place in the U.S. and starts to get painful migraines. Then Emma begins volunteering at a long-term care center, helping a patient, Zena, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, a cute boy from her high school. As the weeks pass, Emma and Samnang grow close. But when Emma is given the choice, will she stay in Massachusetts, or return home to Japan?

An ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
A Bankstreet Best Book of the Year
A Notable Books for a Global Society Selection
A Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

“With beautiful language and deep sensitivity, Holly Thompson explores the courage it takes to find your own voice.” —Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down

“Pulsing with pain and passion, with humor, heart, and hope.” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know and To Be Perfectly Honest

*“Thompson captures perfectly the feeling of belonging elsewhere. A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference.” —School Library Journal, Starred

“Thompson nimbly braids political tragedy, natural disaster, PTSD, connections among families, and a cautious, quiet romance into an elegant whole. This is an artistic picture of devastation, fragility, bonds and choices.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Thompson, working in a free-verse style that becomes a seamless piece of a world imbued with poetry, weaves [the plot strands] together skillfully. The result is a touching portrait of Emma working through loss and opportunity as Lowell becomes not just “not-Japan,” but the site of new connections and a possible romance.” —Publishers Weekly

“The vivid imagery in the lyrical free verse lends immediacy to Emma’s turbulent feelings. Readers will finish the book knowing that, like Zena, the Cambodian refugees, and the tsunami victims, Emma has the strength to ‘a hundred times fall down / a hundred and one times get up.’” —The Horn Book Magazine

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Raised in Japan, Emma Karas feels more Japanese than American, and her family’s move to a town outside Lowell, Mass., has left her displaced. Her father’s away working, her grandmother cooks bland American food, and her mother’s about to have surgery for breast cancer, which is why they’re there in the first place. Fifteen-year-old Emma feels guilty for leaving Japan so soon after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, and with all of this stress, she’s started having migraines. Thompson lives in Japan, and her last book, Orchards, also dealt with cross-cultural complexities. At first, all the strands seem like too much: Emma also volunteers at a long-term care center, helping a woman with locked-in syndrome write poetry, and befriends half-Cambodian Samnang, a fellow volunteer. But Thompson, working in a free-verse style that becomes a seamless piece of a world imbued with poetry, weaves them together skillfully. The result is a touching portrait of Emma working through loss and opportunity as Lowell becomes not just “not-Japan,” but the site of new connections and a possible romance. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jamie Weiss Chilton, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (May)

From the Publisher

Starred Review, School Library Journal, April 2013:
“A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference.”

“With beautiful language and deep sensitivity, Holly Thompson explores the courage it takes to find your own voice.” —Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down
 
“Thompson’s eloquent novel speaks to us, carrying us along with Emma as she embarks on a life-altering journey from Japan to America. But it’s Emma’s inner journey that’s the true adventure—pulsing with pain and passion, with humor, heart, and hope.” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know and To Be Perfectly Honest

Kirkus Reviews

In flowing free-verse poems, a 15-year-old white American girl who grew up in Japan recounts a kaleidoscope of devastations, recoveries and irreparable damage--ranging from the geopolitical to the personal. Emma's lived in Japan since infancy. When her family moves to Massachusetts for her mother's breast-cancer treatment, Emma starts getting migraines. She hates "abandoning Japan" just months after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake/tsunami; she wants to continue helping her friend Madoka's relatives shovel sludge from their drowned houses and wait for word of a missing aunt. Japan's "endless stretches of mangled homes / the tangled mountains of debris / and all the broken towns and families" feel like Emma's own. In Massachusetts, "I don't know when to say what / I don't know if something's funny or not." She writes a poem: "Lonely is / when the language outside / isn't the language inside." As Emma volunteers, helping a physically disabled adult write poetry, and meets a multigenerational Cambodian community with Khmer Rouge history, Thompson nimbly braids political tragedy, natural disaster, PTSD, connections among families, and a cautious, quiet romance into an elegant whole. This is an artistic picture of devastation, fragility, bonds and choices; here's hoping some Tohoku tsunami books from a Japanese perspective will join it. (poetry list, recommended resources) (Fiction. 14 & up)

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—Emma, a 15-year-old American raised in Japan, feels adrift when she is transplanted to her grandmother's home in Massachusetts so her mother can undergo breast-cancer treatment. Though she is not Asian, she considers Japan her home. But to her surprise, she starts putting down roots in her new home by volunteering at a long-term care center and navigating a tentative relationship with another volunteer, a Cambodian American boy named Samnang. Emma's story weaves together a variety of disparate topics, including reverse culture shock, cancer, the Cambodian refugee experience, dance, volunteerism, and teen alcoholism. The number of themes could seem overwhelming, but is made manageable by the spare beauty and clarity of free verse. The format flows naturally from the plot, as Emma is a poet herself, and her volunteer service involves helping a stroke victim cope through the exercise of writing poetry. Today's teens, said to volunteer at a higher rate than previous generations, will see themselves in Emma as she looks beyond herself to understand and help others even while grappling with her own concerns. She is driven to help in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and readers will cheer her on as she faces the challenge of contributing to relief efforts from a distance. Her longing for Japan will also resonate with those familiar with the country and its culture, as Thompson captures perfectly the feeling of belonging elsewhere. A sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385739795
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/14/2013
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.80(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

Customer Reviews