Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Language Inside (2013)

The Language Inside. Holly Thompson. 2013. Random House. 528 pages.

Emma Karas may not be the first heroine in a YA novel to ask the ever-important question: where do I belong? but her story--told in verse--is powerful and compelling. Emma may have been born in America, but she's spent practically all of her almost-sixteen years living in Japan. Now that her parents have returned to the U.S.--to Lowell, Massachusetts--because of her mom's recent breast cancer diagnosis, Emma is understandably upset. It's not like her life was completely problem free in Japan, the recent tsunami is proof of that. But it was without a doubt, her HOME. Emma was a part of everything, she belonged. But struggling with her doubts and fears about her mom's cancer in addition to her anxieties about starting a new school, starting a new life, is so overwhelming. And the stress certainly isn't helping her migraines. But some of the changes are interesting if not AMAZING. And in part this is because of her grandmother's insistence that she volunteer at a care center. A couple of times a week, Emma goes and works with Zena, a paralyzed woman unable to even speak. She communicates with a letter board and the rolling of her eyes. Together Emma and Zena write poetry and discuss life--the past, the present, the future. I loved these sections with Zena. Part of her volunteer life includes seeing Samnang on a regular basis. And these two become quite close!

The Language Inside is a verse novel.

lonely is when the language outside
isn't the language inside
and words are made of just 26 letters (130)

letter by letter
word by word
Zena spells
like this poem was just
sitting in her head:

my stroke beached me like a whale on hot sand
come home! my daughter called and called
but I couldn't answer and finally she swam away

by the time I could look up to talk
and tell her to lean over my face
so I could feel the tickle of her hair
she no longer felt like my daughter

come back! I called and called
but she swam away
with my sister (336)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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