Publisher's Note:  

This remarkable novel from Thanhhà L?i, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award–winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.


A California girl born and raised, Mai can't wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai's parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn't know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.


Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by HarperCollins Publishing

Listen, Slowly

by Thanhha Lai

Review Date:

Recommended Age:

Overall Rating:

Profanity / Language Rating:

Violence / Gore Rating:

Sex / Nudity Rating:

Overall Review:  

Ironically, I balked at reading Thanhha Lai's first novel, Inside Out & Back Again, because it was in verse; then I balked at reading her new book, Listen, Slowly, because it wasn't in verse.  Inside Out & Back Again swept me away with its poignant, lyrical voice and I was skeptical that this new book could do the same in prose.  There lies the challenge for an author who hits it out of the park with a debut novel; it is almost impossible to live up to the expectations.


Listen, Slowly really could have be named Outside In because in many ways it is the opposite of Lai's first novel.  Instead of a girl coming to American, the girl goes to Vietnam; instead of verse, prose; instead of a historical setting, contemporary; instead of a lyrical voice, contemporary American teenage dialogue and thoughts.  Mia is a tween who does not want to go to Vietnam and who does not have a lot of interest in connecting with her roots.  However, the reader is taken on a travelogue with Mia.  There are many passages of description regarding the food, landscape, weather, and even the language. 


This is a slow-moving book of discovery and culture.  It is a good fit for tweens, who should identify well with Mia.  Although I did not adore it like I did Inside Out & Back Again, it is a welcome addition to middle grade literature and a beautiful look at the country of Vietnam.


Review of an Advance Reader's Copy

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  None


Violence/Gore:  Adult slaps hands of tweens and teens when they make mistakes embroidering; character falls and bruises face; references to Vietnam War and prisoners of war; report of a death.


Sex/Nudity:  A couple of references to "boobs"; a scene (~ 1 page) in which characters discuss photo of girl in a bikini; passing reference to a man being unfaithful to wife and having a child out of wedlock; discussion about thongs; teenage girl wearing a thong lifts skirt and flashes bottom at a boy.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Cultural roots, war, prisoners of war.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Adults drink; unknown medicine given to ill character, probably herbal in in nature.

Reviewed By Cindy
No image available