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LISTEN, SLOWLY by Thanhha Lai


by Thanhha Lai

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-222918-2
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A trip to Vietnam did not figure in Laguna, California, girl Mai Le's summer plans!

Twelve-year-old Mai (Mia at school) was looking forward to a summer at the beach with her bestie, Montana, trying to catch the eye of HIM (a boy from school), but she's forced on to a plane to keep her grandmother, Bà, company on a trip of indeterminate length. Ông, Bà's husband, went missing during the Vietnam War, and a detective claims to have found a man who knows something about Ông. Mai and Bà stay in Bà's home village, while Mai's doctor father heads into the mountains to run a clinic. Mai's Vietnamese is rusty, and only teenage boy Minh speaks English (but with a Texas accent). The heat, the mosquitoes...even the maybe-relatives are torture. Out of touch with all things American, Mai worries that Montana may put the moves on HIM; and the only girl in the village her age, Ut, is obsessed with frogs. For her sophomore effort, Newbery Honor author Lai delivers a funny, realistic tale of family and friendship and culture clashes. The subtle humor of clunky translations of Vietnamese into English and vice versa are a great contrast to Mai’s sharp and sometimes-snarky observations that offer a window into Vietnamese village life and language.

A touching tale of preteen angst and translation troubles.

(Fiction. 9-12)