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!
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.
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: