Emma is white, and her parents are American - although she's lived in Japan since she was a baby and she has never been in the US longer than a visit. She feels 100% Japanese on the inside. So she's definitely in for a culture shock when the Karas family moves to grandma's in Massachusetts for awhile (months? a year?) while Emma's mother is in treatment for breast cancer.
This book is written in verse, and the story deals quite a bit with artistic expression: As Emma struggles with the fact her outside doesn't match her "filling", dance and poetry become outlets for her emotions. Volunteering at the nursing home she becomes friends with a stroke victim who communicates only through eye movement, several elderly Cambodian refugees, and many American kids of Cambodian ethnicity, who collectively help Emma realize she's not alone - that many people have internal lives that don't match their physical shell.
I enjoyed the book, and I think it would have been equally well served in prose form. Emma and her friends are relatable, intelligent teens with real-world concerns. The author does an excellent job with character and pacing, and I loved that the world's not tied up in a tidy bow at the end - while still giving readers a satisfying resolution.