Author: Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Genre: Fiction, Free-Verse Poetry
Hardcover, 448 pages
Publication: April 26th 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Source: I received a review copy (ARC) from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Eleven-year-old Ema has always been of two worlds—her father’s Japanese heritage and her mother’s life in America. She’s spent summers in California for as long as she can remember, but this year she and her mother are staying with her grandparents in Japan as they await the arrival of Ema’s baby sibling. Her mother’s pregnancy has been tricky, putting everyone on edge, but Ema’s heart is singing—finally, there will be someone else who will understand what it’s like to belong and not belong at the same time.Somewhere Among is a realistic fiction about a girl straddling two worlds, two cultures, America and Japan; all while moving across the country with her family to live in Japan, anticipating the birth of a new baby and coping with the disaster that hit home (America) while she’s hundreds of miles away.
But Ema’s good spirits are muffled by her grandmother who is cold, tightfisted, and quick to reprimand her for the slightest infraction. Then, when their stay is extended and Ema must go to a new school, her worries of not belonging grow. And when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes, Ema, her parents, and the world watch as the twin towers fall…
As Ema watches her mother grieve for her country across the ocean— threatening the safety of her pregnancy—and her beloved grandfather falls ill, she feels more helpless and hopeless than ever. And yet, surrounded by tragedy, Ema sees for the first time the tender side of her grandmother, and the reason for the penny-pinching and sternness make sense—her grandmother has been preparing so they could all survive the worst.
I’m sure everyone in the world was watching when the Twin Towers were hit in New York on September 11, 2001. It was the tragedy heard round’ the world. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of that day, and still I remember it vividly. I was around Ema’s age, our heroine of the story and I still recall where I was at, what I was doing and who I was with. It shook everyone’s lives, those watching from their TV to the people living in other countries. So when I was given the chance to review Somewhere Among, I knew immediately that it was definitely not a book I wanted to pass up. And I’m so glad I didn’t.
I’ve never or don’t recall, at least in quite some time, reading a free-verse poem novel. I’m positive there are plenty of poem books, but I can’t say I’ve read many of them. Somewhere Among is written entirely in Free-Verse. It was a very different reading experience and a pleasant one at that. The book is just shy of 450 pages, but since it’s written in verses, it was a quick read. I love reading about the Japanese culture; seeing the similarities and difference between the East and West’s views. One thing we all have in common, regardless of culture is that we all wish/hope the best for our families in terms of happiness, health and stability. That hasn’t changed from generation to generation.
Donwerth-Chikamatsu did a great job taking a real situation and incorporating it into a realistic story of family and school life of an 11-year-old. Readers empathize with Ema as she temporarily transitions to life in Japan. Ema may have roots in both countries, but she still struggles with feelings of inadequacy, like an outcast, stranger as she familiarize herself with the customs, rules and life in Tokyo. Readers also see how the tragedy of 9/11 affected Ema and her family emotionally and physically; taking a toll on her mother and stopping her father from coming home from work and grounding planes all over the world which also stopped her Grandpa and Nana from visiting from America.
Overall, I enjoyed Somewhere Among way more than I expected. I think it’s a book many can relate to, whether they too, are of two cultures or were old enough to live through or understand the meaning of 9/11. I highly recommend this book, especially where we are today; because one thing I can say for certain, I learned from reading this book is that we all aren’t that different, if we just stopped and really looked; we have more in common than we’d think.