Publisher: Dial on May 1, 2014
Reading Challenges: 2014 Standalone Reading Challenge, 2014 YA Contemporary Challenge
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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.
Josie talking about her perfect guy:
“He will never ask me to eat gray, slimy, gelatinous food nor will he tousle my hair. Not that he could tousle it since I wear it daily in a neat and tidy ponytail, but there are times–showering, blow-drying–when my hair is, in fact, tousle-able. I’d prefer it if he just never touches my head or touches it only with my permission, which I will grant on special occasions such as Arbor Day, poor, neglected holiday that it is, but never on my birthday. He will not collect white crud in the corners of his eyes or mouth. He will be athletic, but his interest in sporting events will stop well before obsession. He will understand the difference between: coincidence and irony, smart and gifted, ticks and things that are interesting. He will agree that the single greatest musical talent of our times is Dennis DeYoung, whose picture we will enshrine in the foyer of our first home together. He will never criticize my mother’s cooking or my parents’ house but will, instead, fit seamlessly into the Sheridan family dynamic. and his name will easily lend itself to a silent p. He will be Pperfect.”
The publisher actually reached out to me and asked if I wanted to review this novel–the synopsis sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a go!
“I can speak the languages of lots of groups and learn others with some ease, but no matter how fluent I am, when I’m not speaking Josie, I am merely acting. We all are when we interact outside of our natural cultures. It is inevitable, because it is impossible to be fully yourself in a foreign language.”
Love and Other Foreign Words follows Josie, girl-genius, as she deals with the things dealt to her in life. See, Josie is good at translation–she can speak in Boyfriend, High School, College, among other things. But Kate, Josie’s older sister, gets engaged to someone Josie deems insufferable, and Josie makes it her mission to make Kate see that he is all wrong for her. Factor in all that drama, and you still have Josie trying to figure out what he language is and what love is.
This novel was promising. However, the way in which it was written made the novel extremely hard to read and understand. The novel was written in Josie’s point of view and knowing she is a genius by intelligence standards, I knew that the voice of the novel would be different than many of the novels that I have read. However, I felt like this was too over to the top. It felt like the author tried a little too hard to convey her intelligence, thus making the novel hard to follow. The novel had no flow, even for someone who has a higher than average intelligence score.
Concerning the plot, it was also predictable. This removed any excitability that I could have received from the events that transpired in the novel. The novel was not boring, by any means. It was just easy to see where it was going, and for me, that wasn’t a plus.
“At this rate, my bowl was more soup than sauce, likelier to spill, splatter, or drip, and I shuddered at the thought of a glob of it clinging to my shirt like a baby spider monkey hanging on to its mother’s underbelly, or worse–much, much worse–dribbling down my chin.”
Josie was the protagonist. Josie was the most unique character that I’ve read in a while. She had an extremely high intelligence level, but that made her unrelatable in many ways. Her prose was difficult to understand and much of the time I couldn’t understand her motivation for the things that she did. I, personally, am not considered genius, but I’m not far from that cut off IQ. Even then, it was still difficult for me to connect with her character. However, she did evolve over the course of the novel, which is something that I enjoy seeing in characters. She grew and changed and matured.
There wasn’t really a main male lead, as this novel is more of a coming of age with an element of romance. That being said, there were a few males in Josie’s life.
Ross: This was Josie’s other sister’s husband. I enjoyed the little we saw of his character.
Josie’s Dad: He was probably my favorite male in the novel. He was smart, sarcastic, and quirky, things that I wish my father was.
Geoff: This was Kate’s fiance. He was basically Josie’s rival for the duration of the novel.
Stu: He was Josie’s best friend and fellow genius. I kind if liked him. He wasn’t bad, but wasn’t spectacular.
Stefan: He was Josie’s boyfriend for a brief time in the novel. He wasn’t spectacular either.
I can’t say much about it for fear of spoiling, but it wasn’t all that. But that’s okay because romance wasn’t the main focus of the novel–Josie dealing with the languages that she spoke and her sister were.
Kate: Kate was Josie’s sister. She changed over the course of the novel, too, and not for the better. She was really kind of childish and gullible, to be honest.
Maggie: Maggie was Josie’s other older sister. Ross’ wife. We didn’t see too much of her, but I liked her more than Kate.
Sofie: Sofie was Stu’s sister and Josie’s other best friend. She was bubbly and I loved her.
“I love my sisters and never longed for a brother, but since Maggie forced one, in law, upon me, I’m very glad she chose Ross. He plays guitar and piano and does sticky and gross in his job–all things I cannot do–all of which increased his standing in my estimation and made it easier for me to grant Maggie permission to marry him. Which I did in writing. I was eleven at the time. Maggie framed the letter, and it hangs now in their home office–a permanent reminder of the blessing I gave their union.”
I loved that Josie’s parents were actively involved in the novel. You don’t see much of that nowadays. Family played a big role on this novel, and that definitely kept me reading the novel.
In conclusion, Love and Other Foreign Words was not a bad novel by any means. However, the tone with which it was written did not allow me to connect with the characters and thus, did not tickle my fancy.