Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Release date: May 1, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Dial Books
Pages: 336
Format: Egalley
Source: Penguin First to Read
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Perfect for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell, Love and Other Foreign Words is equal parts comedy and coming of age--a whip-smart, big-hearted, laugh-out-loud love story about sisters, friends, and what it means to love at all.

Can anyone be truly herself--or truly in love--in a language that's not her own?

Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue--the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancé up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word--at least not in a language Josie understands.
In reading the synopsis for Love and Other Foreign Words, it came off, at least to me, as just another fun contemporary read, albeit one that really appealed to me. Josie didn't scream having the potential to be extraordinary or anything out of your normal narrator. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is Love and Other Foreign Words fun, as I figured it'd be, but Josie is a wholly original and quite unlike any protagonist I've read about, in the best way possible. Those comparisons to John Green and Rainbow Rowell? Pretty hard shoes to fill, but also completely suited here.

Josie Sheridan is gifted, though they don't use that term in her family. She is a junior in high school and a freshman in college, studying languages. She views her ability to fit into different situations and places--her family, high school, college--as fluency in their languages. Even if she views herself as fluent, she's not a native speaker. She's only a native speaker of Josie, and very few people speak that. This idea gives her a very distinct way of viewing the world, one in which she sees the dynamics of different social groups and strata and she can make her way through these groups when she wants to, but she always feels separate. Even so, Josie is happy how she is. She can flit between languages but can speak her own language with her sister and Stu, her best friend.

A wrench is thrown into Josie's happiness when her sister Kate gets engaged. Suddenly, not only is Kate in bride mode, controlling each and every thing and making everything be about herself, but her attention is all on Geoff, her fiance, who Josie hates. She does everything in her power to make it clear her dislike for Geoff and to be difficult, since she believes Geoff and Kate do not belong together. But, over the course of the book, Josie comes to realize that love is one language she cannot understand. Without the experience of love or with a flawed view of it, Josie cannot see the good in Kate and Geoff's relationship, and while it's fun to see her machinations and her journey there, it's pretty great when she finally understands.

And for a book all about love, the romance is pretty understated. You know from the beginning what it's going to be, but it's slow in coming, and, really, all the better for it. Josie needs her previous experiences, just as she needs them to understand Kate and Geoff, to understand what she has and what it could be. It's worth the wait, though, I promise.

Love and Other Foreign Words is truly hilarious at times. It's earnestly sweet at others, and completely realistic at still others. It's filled with a cast of characters as unique as those you meet on the street, but they're appealing and real as well. Josie is one of the most fun narrators I've read of in a long time. Truly, if you're a fan of Rainbow Rowell and/or John Green, you'll be a fan of Love and Other Foreign Words.

About the author:

Erin McCahan's second novel, LOVE AND OTHER FOREIGN WORDS was optioned by Warner Bros. in a pre-empt. The novel will be released in English by Dial Books, May 1st, 2014. Also in 2014, it will be released throughout the world in 10 languages.

I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU SOMEONE ELSE, Erin's first YA novel, was a 2010 Cybils Finalist and a 2011 RITA Awards Finalist in two categories -- Best Young Adult Romance and Best First Book. It was also named one of the Best 100 Books of 2010 by Librarians' Choices.

Erin lives in Columbus, OH, with her husband of over 14 years, Tim, and is a member of Sons and Daughters in Touch, SCBWI, Intertel and Mensa. She is also a certified Peer Mentor for an organization called TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors).

When she is not writing or taking walks with her husband, she can be found in any number of local coffee shops having chai and long conversations with friends.

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