This novel-in-verse is the story of a year in Hà's life, from the last Tết that she spends with her family in South Vietnam, to the day that she and her family flee on a ship bound for Thailand, to her first semester of school in Alabama, to the first Tết that she spends in America. There's a papaya tree to miss, a father to wait for, a language to learn, and bullies to run from. It's a year full of fear, and change, and hope.
I always have a little trouble getting into novels in verse. It's hard for me to get into the rhythm of reading them, and then, because they're so spare, to connect to the characters and the story. Here, though, I think the format is perfectly suited; there's nothing said that doesn't need to be, nothing left out for want of space. I have a clear picture of who Hà is, who her brothers are (oh, that baby chick killed me), who her mother is. There are no lengthy descriptions of Ha's school, or of any of the characters, and I don't have clear mental pictures of anything, but I don't need to. I know their dreams, which is much more important than their height.