Customer Review: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

The Language Inside 
Holly Thompson
Delacorte Press
Published May 2013*

Author Holly Thompson uses free verse to weave together a great
multi-cultural story about family, friends, love, hardship, and what to do
when the language inside doesn’t match the language outside.

The main character, Emma, and her family move from Japan (the only home
Emma has ever known) when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. The
family moves to Massachusetts to stay with a relative so that her mom can
be treated in Boston.

Her mother’s breast cancer and the move all leave Emma with a lot of
stress and she starts to suffer from severe migraines. Emma also
experiences a lot of guilt for having left Japan right after it has been struck by
the tragedy of a Tsunami. She feels she should be there with her friends to
help clean up the destruction and start rebuilding.

Her grandmother signs Emma up to volunteer at a long-term care facility
while she’s in town. She is there to help Zena, a patient who
suffers from locked-in syndrome, write poetry.  The only way Zena can
communicate is with her eyes. Emma has to hold up an alphabet board
organized by row and color, reading each one out until Zena looks up to
select a letter. I found this dynamic of the story to be very heartwarming
as we get to watch Zena and Emma’s relationship grow as they connect with
one another through their mutual love of poetry.

This book deals with a lot of different issues; breast
cancer, locked-in syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, and migraines,
to name a few, but it does so effortlessly, weaving the issues together into one
coherent and touching story about one girl’s journey to find herself.

~ Amanda

*Note from Eight Cousins: Books that are pre-ordered more than 10 days before publication receive a 20% discount. If you are interested in reviewing Advanced Reader Copies, please contact

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