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.
Warning: This book review contains spoilers.
I have always been fascinated with words and how one word can mean a million different things among a variety of people. Love. The one word that can mean so many other things. How can one define love? An emotion that many talk about, but cannot put into concrete terms. Love and Other Foreign Words brings this issue to the YA world.
Josie is so smart and is known to be quite the top notch student. Taking advanced courses already, it seems like there is no problem she cannot solve. But is she smart enough to understand the foreign language of love? This coming-of-age YA book is filled with love, hurt, and the importance of language.
I found Josie’s character to be quite different than ones I typically read about. She pays a ton of detail to word usage and pretty much knows the answer to anything. So be warned! If you say something incorrect, she may correct you – in the Josie way, of course! Through this I found parts of my own personality in her. She is smart and has an understanding of different groups of people. She’s also very observant. But much like me, she has two older siblings; one in particular whom she is very close to.
As Josie struggles to accept the fact that her older sister is embarking on this new chapter in life, I too did the same. Even though I do not have an older sister, my older cousin (who is much like an older sister) started growing up. Me, being the later bloomer that I am, struggled with that. Thus, I felt the pain that Josie felt. She did everything in her power to break up her sister’s engagement. However, in the end, she learned to accept it. But it was an uphill battle. Her sister told Josie to open up to love. But will she? Perhaps this is Josie’s way of understanding the true meaning of love.
It was not until she felt what it was like to have feelings for someone else that went beyond friendship that she learned where her sister was coming from. Love cannot be solved with a simple mathematical equation, but has to be truly felt to understand it. She learns that love comes in many forms, even through a best friend who is always there.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
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 culture. It is inevitable, because it is impossible to be fully yourself in a foreign language. (McCahan, 296).
This quote is so eloquently put together and sums up my review quite perfectly. Sometimes we feel out of place, thus trying to fit in with others primarily by speaking just how they speak. It’s a common phenomenon we see every day, and I love how this YA novel packs in this complex issue quite nicely. So in any social setting, we try to fit in whether we are aware of it or not. We talk like our friends and use words and abbreviations that are common in that particular setting.
We all find the word love to be confusing, intimidating, and just all around complex. It was trial and error throughout the whole book for Josie. It was not until the end that she started to figure out what it was. Through self discovery, she found out a little more about herself and the world around her. I guarantee that this book will not only help you define what love means to you, but analyze how important the art of language and words can be. This book is lighthearted and all around a good read.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Dial (May 01, 2014)
Source: Copy provided by publisher
ISBN #: 9780803740518
Length: 336 pages (Hardcover)