This post is going to be extremely enthusiastic as I'll be talking about a book that I think you should all read this summer, especially if you love reading contemporary YAs by Jaclyn Moriarty, Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Rainbow Rowell.
This book is called Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan.
Can anyone be truly herself--or truly in love--in a language that's not her own?I LOVED Erin McCahan's debut novel I Now Pronounce You Someone Else, which came out in 2010, and I waited and waited for her next novel and now we finally have another by her. And it was worth the wait!
Sixteen-year-old Josie Sheridan, whose chart-topping IQ is matched only by her lack of social grace, lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-Ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But only a few people can speak her native tongue, like her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. When Kate gets engaged to a particularly insufferable guy, Josie is sure that Kate’s making a huge mistake—and she’s determined to break the couple up. But as the sisters wage war over secrets and semantics, it’s Kate and Josie’s relationship that starts to fall apart instead. Forced to examine her feelings for a boyfriend who says he loves her, a sister she loves but doesn’t always like, and the best friend who hasn’t said a word, Josie must come to terms with the fact that there is still one language she doesn’t yet understand: Love.
I was counting the days until Love and Other Foreign Words and I was so excited when I was contacted by BookSparks/SparkPointStudio to review it as part of their Summer Reading Challenge.
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The single greatest word, of all languages in the world, is teepee. Comes from the Sioux. I could be born into a family of French-speaking goat herders in the Swiss Alps and still know immediately what a teepee is the moment I hear the word. No confusion. Perfect clarity. It is the epitome of lingual greatness.I loved Josie. I'm sure in real life she'd be very difficult to live with, but she wormed her way into my heart and I had such a fun time with her. I also related to her because I too have a different "language" that I for the different people (from family to friends to work colleagues) in my life.
If only every language were as clear as Sioux.
The author captured Josie's voice so well. Her thoughts and the things that came out of her mouth were so funny. She has a genius IQ, but when it came to understanding people there was a lot she did not understand. She kind of reminded me of Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (although she does not have Asperger's), with her logical brain and preoccupation with languages (Christopher's was with patterns). She saw things unconventionally and she put an offbeat spin to an otherwise predictable plot line that made it fresh and such a joy to read.
...I am assailed by the shrieks of Jen, an unusually cheery Emmy, and the enthusiasm of four other friends from the volleyball team who are, we are told annually by our coach, each other's BFFs.I enjoyed the secondary characters too, particularly her family. Josie's parents were great. Unlike many YA novels, both of her parents were around, acted like parents as well as added to the hilarity of the novel. If I ever have any kids they were the kind of parents I aspire to be--when Josie got too out of line they were there to reign her in but they let her do her own thing and be herself. The dialogue between Josie and her parents were fantastic. It was also very easy to relate to her bumpy but ultimately loving relationship with her sister, Kate. I saw myself and Leslie when Josie and Kate would argue and make up as only sisters would.
They have been waiting all day, all summer, all of high school to celebrate senior year. And I celebrate with them, in their language, copying their customs, which, at the moment, are hugs and huge smiles and breathless excitement. I don't shriek, though. There are certain foreign words and phrases I just can't reproduce, and shrieking is one of them. Woo-hooing is another.
They like to hug on this team--those weird X Marks the Spot Hugs: pull sleeves down over hands, tilt head, and cross arms behind friend's neck in an X, pointing up [...] I had to learn it last year when I made varsity and discovered that every girl did it.As for the romance, it was not the main focus of the novel (for a more romance-focused book read McCahan's I Now Pronounce You Someone Else). The main focus of this novel was Josie as she "translated" and navigated her way through the different relationships in her life. But it was cute and sweet.
Again, it's a cultural thing, like bowing in Japan, I suppose. So I practiced at home and now have the reputation for giving the best hugs on the team. Girls actually say, "I need a Josie hug," so I oblige my thirteen "BFFs" and a couple of JV girls too. No one knows how unnatural I find it--as unnatural as I will find bowing, should I ever go to Japan, which I don't foresee, but if I go, I will certainly practice before the trip, and my new Japanese friends will say, "I need a Josie bow," but in Japanese.
And I will feel, after my trip, the way I often feel after volleyball practice: It's a relief to be home, no offense to my teammates or to the entire country of Japan. But after a time, it's hard living in a foreign place.
Take Love and Other Foreign Words to the beach with you this summer. I guarantee you'll have a good time and will laugh your way through it. If you love reading quirky, witty and smart characters, Josie is your girl. I'm looking forward to McCahan's next novel, and hopefully the wait won't be as long this time around.