REVIEW: Inside Out and Back Again

REVIEW: Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhaa Lai

Published: 2011

What an amazing cover. It grabbed my attention!

What an amazing cover. It grabbed my attention!

Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.” An author’s note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà’s story.


Why I Chose This Book:

I tried something new for my next read-a Twitter poll. I posted my poll on Facebook and Instagram too, and took those votes into account for those that couldn’t get on Twitter. The four books on the poll included three that I had read previously: Holes by  Louis Sachar, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. I chose to put Inside Out and Back Again on the poll because I had recently bought it on Amazon as it was a featured “Daily Deal.” I love $1.99 books and couldn’t resist this beautiful cover! I read the description and it sounded good too.

The votes were strongly in favor to my new read and I have to admit, I was excited! I was not disappointed either! I gave this book FIVE STARS! Read on to find out why!

What I Loved:

  • I loved the main character Kim Hà. She was strong, smart, hilarious, and relatable.
  • I loved how Thanhaa Lai was able to weave the beautiful culture and landscape of Vietnam into the horrifying war atmosphere. You could see how their lives were, how centered around tradition they were, all with bombs going on in the background. Life must go on, right? This was their life-same traditions, new fears.
  • The heartbreak. This made it real. The emotions were raw. You could feel each character fall apart and you could feel their struggles.
  • The successes were also wonderful. We always want to see the characters rise out of the ashes.
  • This book opened my eyes on so many struggles other people face. Refugees. Vietnam War. Immigrants who don’t speak the native language. Children trying to go to school without being able to speak. Hà struggled expressing herself emotionally and academically and this broke my heart.

Favorite Quotes

  • “If the price of eggs/were not the price of rice,/and the price of rice/were not the price of gasoline,/and the price of gasoline/were not the price of gold,/then of course/Brother Khôi/could continue hatching eggs.”
  • “Tears of an ugly fish,/I know that to mean/fake tears of a crocodile.”
  • “Brother Quang says,/How can we scramble away/like rats,/without honor, without dignity,/when everyone must help/rebuild the country.”
  • “But our family sticks together/like wet pages.”
  • “What’s the point of/new shirts and sandals/if you lose the last/tangible remnant of love?”
  • “Whoever invented/English/must have loved/snakes.”
  • “Whoever invented English/should be bitten/by a snake.”
  • “So this is/what dumb/feels like. I hate, hate, hate it.”
  • “Whoever invented English/should have learned/to spell.”
  • “This year I hope/I truly learn/to fly-kick,/not to kick anyone/so much as/to fly.”


I recommend this book to those who love books with themes of family, war, and rising above. This is a quick read, but it is so powerful. A good book makes you think, makes you change your mind on how you felt before, and makes you see the world a little differently. If you agree, then you would love this book.

Happy reading!

I am a middle school teacher who loves to read ALL KINDS of books. I am part of the ARC-sharing group LitReviewCrew, a co-creator for the YouTube Channel Legit KidLit and the Podcast Read to Write KidLit. Check out my Linktree for more:

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