Book Blog: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
Although she's an American, Emma has spent her entire life in Japan, and feels she belongs there. She also feels needed, because at the book's outset, the 2011 tsunami has ravaged the country, and families she knows are in trouble. When her mother's illness forces Emma's family to move in with her grandmother in the United States, Emma experiences culture shock, migraines, and a fierce desire to return to Japan. Through her grandmother's meddling, she volunteers in a long-term care center where she bonds through poetry with Zena, a patient who can communicate only by blinking. She also befriends Samnang, a fellow volunteer and dancer who slowly captures her heart. Over time, her desire to return to Japan is tempered with her desire to stay in the US, and she must make a heartwrenching decision.
What I loved most about this book was the language--not only the gorgeous free verse with which the story is told, but Emma's own conflicts with language, her struggles with writing poetry and sharing so much of herself through that poetry. One of Emma's poems begins:
when the language outside
is not the language inside
and words are made of just 26 letters
not parts that tell stories
So much of this novel is delightful--the rhythm of the language, the poems within the story, the descriptions of dancing, and the discoveries of culture, belonging, and friendship. It is full, and fascinating.
For a review of Holly Thompson's first YA novel, Orchards, you can read Katherine's post here.