Title: Love and Other Foreign Words
Author: Erin McCahan
Publisher: Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group
Publication date: May 1, 2014
I checked this book out from my local library yesterday after I noticed it displayed on the “New in YA” shelf. I’m actually surprised that it’s such a new book, as books usually don’t trickle down to my branch of the library until they’re months old. But I picked it up and found that it was a nice, easy read for a rainy afternoon like today.
A summary of the book, from McCahan’s website:
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.
What I liked about this book was that the main relationship was between Josie and her sister Kate. In fact, their entire family dynamic, even the antagonism between Josie and Kate’s obnoxious fiancé, Geoff, is supremely entertaining. When I read the title Love and Other Foreign Words, I assumed that the focus of the book would be romantic love. I was pleasantly surprised to find that instead, the intricacies of familial love and sisterly love took the center stage. I think these types of love are often overlooked, so I was happy because of this development.
What I didn’t like about the book was that the romantic relationship between Josie and her significant other at the end (no spoilers, so I won’t mention the name) was obvious and super, super cliché. I also felt like most of the other characters outside of Josie’s family and her best friend, Stu, fell flat. Her entire group of friends – Jen, Ellie, Sophie, whatever their names were – were all one-dimensional and interchangeable. I think that the minor characters in a book are just as important as the main characters, and the minor characters in this book were a disappointment.
A side note: one other thing that was slightly off-putting was the quote on McCahan’s website saying the book is “Perfect for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” This isn’t the author’s fault, and doesn’t impact my rating of the book, but I’m sick of John Green (and as of late, Rainbow Rowell) being held up as the standard of YA literature, something to aspire to, a buzz-name to immediately garner attention. Yes, I think people who like John Green books would like this book, because it is quirky and comedic and intends to be meaningful. But the implication that anything with John Green’s name associated with it will sell is getting tired. End side note.
Overall, Love and Other Foreign Words was fairly funny, and as a quick read, it was enjoyable. It’s not a book that I would recommend to my friends, but if you want to read about types of love beyond the romantic, or if you simply want a good laugh and some fun fluff, give it a try.
3 out of 5 stars.