Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Plot Analysis

By Thanhha Lai

Plot Analysis

Exposition

Peachy (Papaya-y) Keen

Life in Hà's world is easy and normal. She is a little girl who is bothered by her older brothers, loves her mother, and generally feels comfortable in her home in Saigon, Vietnam. Even though there is a war nearby, it hasn't really gotten close to her and her family. Hà's father is missing, though, and longing for his return is a big part of her family's life. Most of Hà's time is spent thinking and watching her papaya tree grow, waiting to eat the fruit.

Rising Action

Cloudy with a Chance of… Bahn Chung

Things are getting bad in Saigon, and Hà's father's best friend, Uncle Son, tells her mother that they must get ready to escape on a ship soon. When they do, thousands of other people are on board, and conditions are awful; they starve and go thirsty, and the trip drags along. Finally they are rescued and make it to America… but it is not what they expected.

Things in America are really confusing for Hà and her family, especially because they do not know English. Being adopted by a white guy and his wife isn't that great either, and though the man is pretty nice, his wife isn't, and they aren't allowed to leave the house at all at first, because the wife doesn't want anyone to see Hà and her family. Finally, though, it is time for them to get jobs and go to school. However, Hà must repeat the fourth grade, and she is bullied for not knowing much English.

Hà (and her family) can't stand the food in America, either—it is processed instead of fresh, and generally seems pretty gross to them. In other words, Hà hates her life. When a bully whom Hà dubs Pink Boy really hurts her feelings, Hà confides in her tutor, Mrs. Washington, who tries to makes things right. Though Hà makes two friends, Pam and Steven, Pink Boy doesn't go away. Instead he gets worse.

Climax

Just Desserts

Things really get heated when Hà fights back by calling Pink Boy all kinds of names, and then also makes him feel dumb in math class. Pink Boy threatens to have Hà beat up by his cousin. With help from Pam, Hà tries to sneak out of the fight, but Pink Boy catches her. Though he tries to hit her, Hà uses her amazing defensive skills her brother Vu has taught her, and moves out of the way just in time for Pink Boy to fall on the ground instead. Then Vu rescues her on his massive motorcycle, whisking her away in the coolest way possible.

Falling Action

Like a Glove

As you might've figured, life improves from this point on for Hà, mostly because everyone loves Vu, so she gets to be cool by association, and her days of being bullied are over. Now when weird things come up—like when Hà wears a nightgown to school thinking it's a dress—Hà has the confidence to not care what others think.

Resolution

As American as Apple Pie

By the end of the book, the family's future seems hopeful and bright; everyone has a goal and is all set to roll. They have friends and a home, and even though it is a brand new home and some of the furniture is ugly, Hà and her mother and brothers are optimistic about what awaits them.

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