Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Holly Thompson’s The Language Inside did everything I’ve been looking for in a novel in verse. Thompson is clearly a poet not just a writer. The words are deliberately chosen for their meaning and beauty, and their ability to evoke a thoughtful response in the reader.

After reading the summary I was skeptical. There were so many different issues the novel takes up. Emma is a teen raised in Japan. When she moves back to the U.S. because her mother has breast cancer, Emma volunteers at a long-term care center. There, Emma helps Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write poems. She also meets Cambodian refugees and makes new friends all the while suffering from migraines. Eventually she must choose: stay in the U.S. or return to Japan. So, ya, a lot going on! But Thompson weaves the story seamlessly and believably. Having recently read Patricia McCormick’s Never Fall Down I was happy to stumble upon more that would give me a glimpse about the Khmer Rouge.

I liked Emma and her story but I enjoyed the poetic form. It wasn’t a gimmick to snag “reluctant readers” (though I would still recommend this book to one). This is a story not only made of poems but also about poetry as Zena and Emma write together. I’ve been on the hunt for high-quality novels in verse and am happy to add The Language Inside to my list.

Publisher: Delacorte, 2013     Pages: 528
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: Public Library

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