After fleeing Vietnam during the war, Hà couldn’t believe that a country as strange and foreign as America could ever become her home. Still, slowly but surely, exactly that has happened, and now Hà can’t imagine leaving her new friends and school.
But exactly that happens when Hà’s mother relocates them to Texas, a place whose name Hà can’t even pronounce. The last thing she wants is to start over again, and again, and again—not when she’s only just gotten used to America itself. But as Hà grows up in her new home, alongside unexpected friends and experiences, she finally begins to find her place in the world.
When Clouds Touch Us is a quiet but beautiful verse novel that serves as a sequel/companion book to Inside Out & Back Again. Once more, I enjoyed Lai’s thoughtful, lyrical free verse, which carried the story along at a quick yet meditative pace that never felt slow but was willing to linger on small yet impactful moments, something particularly important for an atmospheric historical novel like this one. I also really loved Hà—her determination, perseverance, and bravery propelled the story forward, and particularly in a thoughtful novel which easily could’ve felt slow or stagnant, her character was crucial in keeping me swept up in the story, something she did flawlessly. Although you don’t need to have read Inside Out & Back Again to enjoy When Clouds Touch Us (it’s been years since I read the first book, and didn’t actually realize at first that they were related), I think recalling more vividly Hà’s experiences from Inside Out & Back Again would help you understand more deeply who she is entering this story, and make you more familiar with some of the minor characters. I recommend When Clouds Touch Us to readers ages nine and up, particularly those who enjoy novels in verse.