Review: I stayed away from free verse poetry for a majority of my life. Now, in my wizened old age, I have built a healthy relationship and have a new-found respect for the format. My love for Thuy Trang spurred my interest in Vietnam. I've taken a great interest in the Vietnam War due to this pop culture fascination. Many of the customs and the culture ideals were familiar to me due to my past research into the Vietnam world. However, newcomers to the Vietnam culture will still be able to understand most of the events and the holidays in the book.
Ha is the narrator of the story. Since this is free verse, the storytelling is told from her point of view. It is a very painful story of a young refugee from Vietnam. Uprooted from her home and sanctioned in not-too-friendly Southern USA. I was very touched by the realism and honest emotion of the story. I was disappointed by some of the missed opportunities by the novel, since the story does focus on bullying and racism. However, the author wrote about her own experiences, weaving her own tale into the novel, so the novel takes a more realistic approach, instead of an all-around moral-of-the-story novel.
It is easy to see why this was a Newbery honor book. This is a forthright novel discussing racism and war sanctions.