Review: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Title: Love and Other Foreign Words
Author: Erin McCahan
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: Dial / May 1, 2014
How Did I Get It? Gifted!
Format? Hardcover

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

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My rating for this book is actually a bit odd – I’ve given it four stars, but it’s actually earned a spot on my favorites shelf. Objectively, it’s four stars, because there we some flaws in the book which I’ll detail later. But personally, I connected with this book so much, especially with Josie. I swear, it was like McCahan took 15 year old me and shoved her into a hardback cover. I wasn’t gripping the pages, rushing to see what would happen next, but this story was one of those slow, meandering ones that I enjoyed a few chapters of before bed.

Like I said – Josie could practically be my twin. The confusion of how to communicate with her peers in high school, starting college at 15, the sensory issues, all of it! Especially the sensory issues; I was FREAKING out, yelling at my mom and shoving the book in her face to say MA SHE GETS IT WITH THE SOCK SEAMS AND THE TOUCHING AND THE HAIR BRUSHING AND THE PONYTAILS. I’ve never read a book before where the protagonist has sensory overloads, and honestly I’m finally starting to understand the whole “representation in YA” issue. Because this is such a little thing, but I was able to say, “she understands,” and that’s something every reader should be able to experience. /soapbox

In identifying with Josie so much, I had a really hard time being objective with the rest of the characters. I thought Geoff was the biggest douche-wad ever and I just wanted to tell him to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and it was such a struggle to step back and realize, hey, maybe he’s just a bit nervous and has the best intentions but doesn’t communicate that well to Josie. But the one issue that I really couldn’t get over was Kate’s attitude towards Josie’s physical appearance. I mean, forcing someone to wear contacts because “glasses won’t look right in pictures” and insisting that she get her ears pierced? Way too much for me. I was just flabbergasted that Kate had the gall to say that to her sister, especially in front of other people.

But I think that was the best part of the novel – the reconciliation and strengthening of relationships after hardship. It was really refreshing to see a strong family unit stick together even in their arguments. Plus, I just really have to give a round of applause to Josie’s parents for making sure she was as challenged as could be, and encouraging her to embrace her intelligence in a healthy way. It reminded me of my parents, and how they made sure I was able to go to college at such a young age. Like I said; so many of Josie’s experiences are ones I shared as well.

But there was one pitfall to the book: the ending. I felt like the romance came out of nowhere (even though I knew it was going to happen sooner or later), and was resolved a bit too quickly. Like I was going on all these twists and turns at a nice steady pace, then the last 30 pages came at me all at once, then hit a wall abruptly. I was a bit startled to find that it had ended, but I guess that just means that I loved it so much that I wanted more!

In the end, I stick with my 4 star rating. I think it’s suitable for the story, since I’m not keyboard smashing from excitement or anything, but it’s going to stay with me for a long time in a special little place in my heart. It’s one of those books that I’ll walk past on my shelf and smile fondly because it’s a special baby of mine.

My Final Rating:

Four stars

21 thoughts on “Review: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

  1. With me, Cath from Fangirl was the one where I was like OH MY GOD THAT’S ME. Isn’t it wonderful to find characters who we can relate with so well? This seems like such a lovely book – definitely going to pick it up the next time I drop by the library.

  2. I was really unhappy with the pacing in this one myself. We spent so much time on the NOT interesting romance that the one that came up at the end definitely got short shrift.

  3. Hmmm. This was on my “not interested” shelf on Goodreads…but it just moved up to my “want to read!” I didn’t realize that the main character has sensory issues — that makes me very intrigued. I probably won’t read it anytime soon, since I have a million other books in the queue, but your review totally convinced me that I might actually like this one! 🙂

    • Book pushing: success! So glad to hear that 😀 Maybe sometime down the road when it’s at the library or whatnot. It’s just nice to see authors bringing sensory issues into their main characters and not making it like a OH MY GOD YOU NEED THERAPY YOU WEIRDO sort of thing.

  4. Actually this sounds so great!! But I am totally with you about abrupt endings. Sometimes stories end way too fast. You spend all this time investing in building a story only to let it end way too quickly. 😦

  5. I just love those books that make you feel that someone understands. I know those some of those wouldn’t be perfect, but you just relate so much that you can’t help but love it. I’m glad you were able to remain objective about it, because I surely wouldn’t be able to. Haha! I pretty much rate 5 stars for so many books. Haha! I’m glad that you liked the main protagonist so much. I rarely find ones that I like more than the other characters. I would definitely want to check this one out. Great review, Kayla! 😀

  6. Hm, so far I’ve been seeing pretty mixed reviews for this book, so it seems like it’s either a hit or miss for some people. I’m glad that you enjoyed it overall, though! Not gonna lie, I wasn’t that interested in this (which is pretty much my story with every contemporary novel ever), because you know I’m not big on romance, but I looooove the cover. Reminds me of Rainbow Rowell’s books… which I STILL need to read. Gaaah.

    Oh my gosh, you started college at fifteen, Kayla? ARE YOU SOME KIND OF CLOSET GENIUS OR SOMETHING because wowww. That is amazing. I’m 17 and I still haven’t sat for my SATs yet! D: But dude, your connection with Josie. I don’t want to sound cliche or whatever, but it sounds magical and I am a little — okay, quite — jealous. I’ve never met a character like that before and I WANT THIS CONNECTION.

    I also love that this has a good family aspect. Enough with those broken families, man. Apart from Kate (who sounds like a total bitch [I’m sorry]), it’s good to see such a supporting pair of parents who are actually doing what’s good for their kid. We need more of these! And I find it so sweet that Josie’s parents reminded you of your own. You must have awesome parents. ❤

    Still not sure if this is for me, since I doubt I'll be able to connect to Josie as well as you did, and the plot sounds pretty cliche imo, but all the same, I've put it on my to-read list, in case I ever get a sudden urge to buy and read it. And who knows, I might buy it just because of the cover. It's so pretty.

    • I think the romance was actually only 15% of the book – it’s the family/friendships that take more space in this one 🙂 Also: YOU NEED TO READ FANGIRL MEG. IT’S NOT EVEN A POLITE REQUEST ANYMORE *stares you down*

      Why does everyone keep saying that?? I just know how to learn and I remember things very well and I love to learn soooo I went to college since I wasn’t challenged in high school. Simple as that 😛 But thank you 😉

      Oh my god – Kate was a total bitch. I just didn’t want to be the first to say it 😉

      Yeah, I can definitely say there’s some cliche there. Which is why I stick with my 4 stars 🙂 If you can look past it though, it’s a cute, short read!

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  8. Oh this one has been my on my TBR for a while now and it seems like a book i’d enjoy and connect with. And don’t worry about the four star rating–i sometime rate my favourite books four stars, too! That being said i can see myself connecting with this one on a deeper level so i’m excited for it!

  9. Oh Kayla. I do think we all have that book that wasn’t necessarily a 5-star book, but one that has made us cling to the character because it connected to us in a personal level. And we can’t help but put that book in a special nook in our hearts because the book deserved it. I came across several books that made me feel this way and I am so happy that this book also did the same for you.

    I’m not really a Contemporary kind of gal, but hey, I loved Gayle Forman books so I’m definitely excited to try this book. And yay for the parents being so wonderfully parent-like. Lovely review, Kayla!

    • I used to hate contemporary, and absolutely refused to pick one up at all, but it’s slowly become one of my go-to genres 🙂 Actually, I’ve only read one Forman book! I keep putting off Where She Went 😛

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