A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan. (from GoodReads)
I was not expecting The Language Inside to be written in verse and it made me nervous because I'm not the biggest fan of this style of writing. But I loved it in this book! It worked so well and made the story more beautiful.
Since The Language Inside was written in verse, there aren't that many words on each page. I was able to read this book in a day, so I'm not kidding when I say the pages literally flew by. The story was so compelling that I wanted to keep reading and learn more about the characters and the two cultures featured prominently: Japanese and Cambodian.
I thought it was so cool that Emma was raised in Japan - I can't even imagine what it would be like to live in another country. Emma has lived in Japan since she was a baby and even though she's an American citizen, she feels Japanese. She also is of Greek descent, so she doesn't look Japanese either. That was a bit of a conflict for Emma because people didn't understand how she could be from Japan. Emma has to learn to reconcile Japanese and American culture and it's hard for her in the beginning.
In the story, Emma meets Samnang, who is ethnically Cambodian, at a long term care facility. He befriends Emma and makes her want to stay in the States. Their relationship was so cute, especially when he would help Emma when she got migraines. Emma is fascinated by Cambodia's culture and Samnang introduces her to the food and dance of the country.
Overall I really enjoyed the book and was impressed by how the author was able to fit such well developed characters and plot into a novel written in verse. If any of these topics sound interesting then you should definitely read The Language Inside!
Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: reviewed for LitPick