This is another amazing story from Thanhha Lai. I loved Inside Out and Back Again, and while this story is very different, it was just as rich and wonderful. Inside Out and Back Again was a novel in verse, but Listen, Slowly is told in traditional narrative form. The covers of both books are absolutely beautiful!
Mai, the main character, is a California teenager who was looking forward to spending summer vacation on the beach with her friends, and has started to be interested in a boy. Those plans are destroyed when her family announces she will be accompanying her grandmother to her homeland of Vietnam to discover what happened to her grandfather in the war.
Mai’s reaction is honest and real, and it is both frustrating and gratifying to be privy to her thoughts as the story moves along. How would most teens react when thrust into an entirely different culture? Mai must try many new things and learn to communicate when she doesn’t speak the language or understand the culture.
This is a wonderful story about diversity, the importance of family, and appreciating different cultures.