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’s a rarity in teen literature, a genuine original . . . Lively characters and a satisfying plot foil reader expectations in the best possible way.”—Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Sold by:||Penguin Group|
|File size:||1 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
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Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2014 by Erin McCahan
There must be a way to figure this out.
I contemplate the possible formulae lying on Stu’s bed, staring at the ceiling but seeing only x’s and y’s and parentheses and question marks. Across the room, Stu sits with his back to me at his keyboard, playing an occasional combination of chords and pausing to write or erase musical hieroglyphics in a notebook.
“It can’t be done,” I say. “There are too many variables.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” he says.
“But I have to know.”
“I think you can live without knowing this. I know I can.”
I sit up, adjust my glasses, and notice a loose thread in the brick-red stripe of his serape-style blanket.
“You need to fix this before it comes undone,” I say.
I tell him.
“Just yank it,” he says.
“I’m not yanking it.”
“Then ignore it.”
“You realize I can never sleep under this blanket with this thread as it is. The thought of it would plague me all night.”
“Were you going to?” he asks, looking over his shoulder at me.
“Well, I’m not going to now.”
“Suggesting you were going to at some point?”
“Suggesting no matter where I sleep in the future, it will not be under this blanket.”
“I was not aware our friendship included sleepovers,” he says. “Will we be doing each other’s hair as well?”
“Yes. I long to see you in an up-do.”
“Okay, listen to this,” he says, and proceeds to play, to perfection, the gorgeously trilling introduction of one of the greatest songs of all time, “Come Sail Away.” (Words and music by Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer of Styx and now a composer, Broadway performer, and all-around superlative human being. I believe in his spare time he rescues stranded motorists across the country, chases purse-snatchers, and donates blood and plasma until the Red Cross temporarily bans him for his own good. Somewhere in his closet there must be a cape.)
Then Stu sings—and only Stu, as far as my listening experience extends, could do Dennis DeYoung justice, which is the highest compliment I can pay to any singing person. Stu sings in a couple of choirs and is so musically gifted that our high school choir director often consults him on arrangements for musicals and ensembles. I have a mere average singing voice myself, and the utter inability to play any instrument. I took piano lessons when I was nine for the longest six months of my life. The whole thing made no sense to me, and my teacher refused to answer my list of why questions. Why assign fingers to keys? Why include a tie? Why do you need a damper pedal; why not just not play that note? Why won’t you teach me how to tune this thing? Why are there no blue pianos? No, really, why are there no blue pianos?
She and I were very happy the day my parents let me quit.
Just before the tempo of “Come Sail Away” increases, Stu stops singing and breaks into a classical version of the piece, somewhere between a minuet and a concerto, as if Johann Sebastian Himself had composed it. If I were not watching him with my own eyes, I would swear that more than one pianist was playing.
After only one and a half minutes or so, Stu stops and turns on the bench to face me.
“That’s as far as I’ve gotten,” he says.
“I like it.”
“I aim to please,” he says as Sophie shouts from across the hall, “That’s not how it goes!”
“That’s how I say it goes!” Stu shouts back.
“That’s because you are just too freakishly weird!”
“And you are a fluffy poodle!”
“Enough,” their mom says as she leans into Stu’s room. “Josie, are you staying for dinner?” she asks me.
“Thanks, Auntie Pat, but I can’t. Kate’s coming over tonight, and I finally get to grill her about Boyfriend of the Moment, who, by the way, none of us has met yet.”
“Grill her? Josie,” Auntie Pat says.
“I have to. It’s for her own good.”
“Her own good?” Stu and his mom ask simultaneously, which entertains Auntie Pat far more than it does Stu.
“Yes. I need to find out if there’s anything wrong with him, which there probably is, which I say for three reasons.”
Auntie Pat arches her eyebrows at me, skeptical but waiting, something Stu does at times too.
“One”—I hold up my index finger for emphasis—“there’s something wrong with all her boyfriends. Two”—second finger up—“she’s been going out with him for four months and hasn’t brought him around, so she’s probably hiding something. And three, which is related to one, Kate did not receive an ounce of the discernment Maggie got,” I say of our older sister, “when it comes to picking guys who are right for her.”
“And you did?” Stu asks.
I cringe, thinking back to homecoming, before I say, “Well, I’m better at picking for Kate than Kate is for herself. You know what it is? I’m not blinded by love the way she is. I take a much more logical approach.”
“You have never liked any of her boyfriends,” Stu says.
“My opinion is informed by the guy.”
“Uh-huh. Tell us again what was wrong with the last one.”
“Corn,” I say.
“Corn?” Auntie Pat asks.
“Corn,” Stu says.
“The guy ate only corn, meat, and chocolate,” I tell Auntie Pat. “See, this is where Kate fails the discernment test. She likes to cook. She also eats loads of cruciferous vegetables. And it would be impossible to cook long-term for a grown man who doesn’t eat any. Therefore, logically, he was not a good match for Kate. I knew they’d break up. All I did was suggest it a little earlier than she was prepared for.”
“Cruciferous,” Stu says. “Not tuberous?”
“How about legumes?”
“You get my point.”
“What is her boyfriend’s name?” Auntie Pat asks.
“Geoff with a g, three f’s, and a silent p.” Pgeofff.
“Well, then I hope for Kate’s sake that Geoff-with-a-g enjoys a variety of vegetables,” she says.
“I plan on finding out tonight,” I say. And when Auntie Pat turns to leave, I stop her with: “Did you know there’s a thread coming loose here?”
“Show me,” she says, coming close as I point. “Yes, I see. Just yank it.”
Stu shrugs. “That’s what I said.”
“I can’t. What if it doesn’t come out in one try but gets longer? What if it puckers? What if it tears the whole—”
“Here.” Auntie Pat reaches over me and snaps the thread off as I wince. “All fixed,” she says, and shoots me a quick smile before leaving the room.
I look at my watch. Nearly five thirty. “I have to go.” I hop off the bed, twist my ankle right under me, and crash to the floor.
Stu grins wickedly as he plays the first few chords of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“Dennis DeYoung would have helped me up,” I say as I rise, pink but uninjured, and straighten my glasses.
“Stu Wagemaker thinks you’re a klutz.”
“Oh, hey.” I stop in the door. “Jen Auerbach told me today she thinks she likes you.”
“She doesn’t know?”
I shrug. “She likes lots of guys at present. But, in your case, it doesn’t matter since I told her to stay away from you.”
“Oh, really. Why is that?”
“You mean in addition to your going out with Sarah Selman at the moment?”
“Yeah, in addition to that.”
“I told her you’re the love-’em-and-leave-’em type.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
“No,” he says clearly. “I’m not.”
“Yes you are!” Sophie calls.
“You’re both wrong,” he says, and plays a few light notes on the keyboard.
“Sarah is your third girlfriend this calendar year. And it’s only March.”
“It’s the twenty-fifth,” he protests. “And the last Tuesday of the month, no less.”
“Still a Tuesday in only the third month of the year. That’s a girlfriend a month, so far.” I hold up three fingers for emphasis. “Need I say more?”
“No, because you’re wrong, and I’d hate for you to keep embarrassing yourself.”
“I’m not wrong,” I say, which is confirmed by Sophie.
“She’s not wrong!”
“Gotta go,” I say.
I call out a good-bye to Sophie and pause in the kitchen to pet Moses, the Wagemakers’ seventeen-pound cat, who is just allowing me to touch him again after I stepped on his tail last week. Twice.
Sophie is the love-’em-and-leave-’em type too. She and Stu have identical blond hair, long limbs, symmetrical faces, and easy smiles. Stu writes music. Sophie paints— bright collages when she’s happy, bleak landscapes when she’s not. Having known both of them all my life, though, I can say that Sophie, apart from her love life, is much less complicated. Not a fluffy poodle, but also breezily unconcerned with matters that neither interest nor affect her.
No one will ever accuse Sophie of over-thinking, which I, as an inveterate (my dad says incorrigible) over-thinker, admire. I don’t know how she does it. I find her completely fascinating.
Auntie Pat says she and Stu bicker because they’re so close in age. Thirteen months. Stu’s sixteen. Sophie’s fifteen, three months older than I am even though I’m a year ahead of her in school. I skipped second grade, making me a junior at the moment—like Stu.
Auntie Pat predicts by the time Stu and Sophie are thirty and twenty-nine, well involved in their own families and careers and living in separate states, they’ll get along rather well.
My parents have owned our house across the street from the Wagemakers for nearly twenty-two years, which is at least how long Kate and our oldest sister, Maggie, have been calling them Auntie Pat and Uncle Ken.
For this reason, everyone at school thinks Stu and Sophie are my cousins. We let them. It’s easier to perpetuate the rumor than to explain the intricacies of so close a relationship that isn’t family but should be.
I leave the Wagemakers’ house and cross the street. It’s damp and cold, like the air, from typical late March rain. My thoughts return to the dilemma that had taken me out of Sophie’s room, where I had listened, fascinated by her enthusiasm, to her latest break-up drama that included the description “cheese-sniffing rat bastard,” and into Stu’s room, where I tried to create a formula Stu called impossible. But he must be wrong. There should be—there has to be—some way for me to conclusively determine if I, in all my fifteen-point-four years of life, have eaten an entire rat.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Love and Other Foreign Words:
"I’m about to GUSH, absolutely GUSH, about Love and Other Foreign Words. . . . It’s beautifully written, and it touches the heart of the high school (and let’s be honest, adult) life experience: figuring out where you belong and what that means about who you are. . . . A standout . . . I loved every single moment, and I can’t recommend [it] enough!”—Lisa Parkin for the Huffington Post’s “Top 12 Young Adult Books of 2014”
“Cracklingly smart . . . With impeccable clarity—and hilarity . . . This clever read will satisfy fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Stephanie Perkins.” —Booklist
“Impossibly winning.” —The Wall Street Journal
«“McCahan’s sharp-witted first-person narrative will keep readers laughing." —Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Josie’s a rarity in teen literature, a genuine original. . . . Trying to control what can’t be controlled, wanting and fearing love, she’s one of us. Lively characters and a satisfying plot foil reader expectations in the best possible way.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Readers in the mood for serious laughs need look no further . . . [Josie Sheridan’s] analytical, overthinking narration and knack for delivering truly lacerating quips . . . will have readers sticking by her side.” —Publisher’s Weekly, Best Summer Books 2014
“A true-blue lovable weirdo, [Josie is] the type of character I really enjoy seeing . . . [She is] authentically herself, even when being herself gets in her into trouble.” —HelloGiggles
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My favorite part of the story has to be Josie relationship with her family, but specialty with her sister Kate. Josie and Kate have been best friends since always and Kate is one of the few people on earth with whom Josie doesn't need to translate herself and vice versa, so it's obviously that Josie will not react okay when someone - Kate's fiancé - tries to change this dynamic. I think that everyone that loved "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" by Jenny Han will also love the sister relationship in this one, is at times messy and complicated but it's also the one thing that you can count on everyday of your life, on the bad and on the good, and it was a great source of growing for Josie since she hates changes so much. One other big factor on this book is love on the romantic sense. Josie doesn't understand why Kate changed so much because of one person, one person that for Josie isn't even good enough for Kate, so of course the only possible way of Josie dealing with that is by researching and trying to find an answer of what is love. On this quest of sorts Josie will grow a lot and get to know herself and her feelings even more than she expected, this part of the story really touched me because Josie, as a genius and thinking differently from everyone around her, didn't really expected to find what love is but I do think that she ended up understanding a lot more about human emotions and how much different faces love can have (just like her translation for other words on different groups) but that it will also never stop being something new and different. Now about Josie's romance I was kind of disappointed, not disappointed but more like I wanted more scenes on the SHIP - because there was a super sweet ship. So yeah, anyway Josie falls in love a couple of times during the book and I get why she needed to have these experiences so she could be ready for THE SHIP and to start to understand her feelings and everything, also it was fun in a kind of masochist way to see all that was right in front of Josie and she never seeing it (and having the confirmation that I wasn't the only one on this ship). Other things that I enjoyed about this were Josie herself, she was an amazing narrator, hilarious (because she thought and perspective the world around her on such different ways, kind of on the way that Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory was but more functional) and touching (I cried on a lot of passages), she is definitely one of the most memorable characters that I read so far on my lifetime. Also really loved the way that Josie, despite being a genius, isn't bullied, have friends (both on her college as well as on high school), isn't described as ugly on any part or anything close to it and is part of a sportive active after school. In case you didn't noticed yet I really liked this book, it was an super fun read but also touching, so I recommended it to you if you like humourous books or contemporary reads or memorable characters or novels that are very character driven or all of the above or basically just read this book, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy it.
Josie speaks many languages. She can converse in the languages of high school, college, friends, boyfriends and even the volleyball team. She can parse behaviors to see the right way to act, the right thing to say. She can always translate the things around her into her own native Josie. But living a life in translation is exhausting. Even though Josie can take part in many different groups, and speak many different languages, only her family and her best friend Stu can ever properly understand Josie's native language. The people who understand Josie threatens to get even smaller when her sister Kate announces that she is engaged to a truly insufferable man. With the wedding approaching, Josie notices more and more changes in her beloved Kate. Love is a word found in many languages. And with so many things around her changing, Josie is about to get a crash course in the true meaning of the word in Love and Other Foreign Words (2014)by Erin McCahan. Josie is a lovely heroine who is convincingly intellectual without ever coming across as stilted. Stu is her perfect foil and the quintessential dreamy best friend. In every sense this story is heartwarming with many saccharine moments and authentic realizations about what it means to be part of a family. That said the pacing felt off with were ostensibly the main parts of the story (the wedding preparation, the actual romance, the discord between sisters) not appearing until the second half of the story. Although the direction the story moves in makes up for the rushed feeling of the ending. (And oh how I wish Josie had glasses on the cover.) While there are hints of romance, the real romance--the one that should have been the meat of the story--doesn't appear until the last fifty pages of the novel. At the end of the day Love and Other Foreign Words is a sweet story about sisters and how familial relationships change that will appeal to readers of light contemporary romances. Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
I saw myself in Josie, the way that her brain was always thinking, always over-processing the information that came her way. I don’t know why I can’t take things at face-value, why I seem to over-analyze the things that come my way but that’s just seems to be the way that I am. As I read about Josie, I laughed at her unpredictable behavior as it appeared to be so extreme for a fifteen-year old, she was funny and upbeat, and I just never knew what she might come up with. Her off-the-wall topics just flew off her tongue and I loved it. She seemed so focused on getting her sister Maggie to break up with her fiancé Geoff, I wasn’t sure if she was going to be successful or not. Josie is sure Maggie can do better as Josie finds Geoff’s first impression annoying and she’s not impressed with the guy. As Josie tries to talk to her sister about how she feels, Maggie is sure Josie would change her mind, if only she knew what love is all about. But would love change Josie’s mind? Talking with her friends Stu and Sophie, the question of love is analyzed and they both offer great insight but it’s Josie who needs to make up her own mind. Balancing high school and college, she has the individuals and the means at her disposal; it was whether if she can actually see what is happening and admits it. The novel wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it to be, it was good but just not a five star read liked I visualized.
I received this book as an ARC through Penguin's First to Read. Love and Other Foreign Words is the story of 16 year old Josie and her quest to determine what the word "love" truly means and what constitutes being in love. This is brought about by her sister Kate's engagement to Geoff. Josie interprets this word through her ability to speak many different languages, such as the language of her sister, best friend, high school friends, college friends, family, and more. Being a teenager myself, I found Josie to be an extremely relatable character. Her relationship with her sister is a perfect example of how real sisters bond, fight, and genuinely love each other. All of the characters were so well developed and tangible that most anyone could envision someone they actually know as each character. Josie's responses to turmoil in this story made me laugh countless times and brought me close to tears at other times. Although the story wasn't unpredictable, it was an extremely enjoyable read and an easy read for anyone looking for a quick book to get into. It only took me a couple of hours to read the whole story. While the story is entertaining, it is also a reminder of how important relationships are, especially with siblings. I know it made me appreciate my sister a whole lot more, and next time I see her I'm going to give her a huge hug in remembrance of this book! I would definitely recommend Love and Other Foreign Words.
Amazing. Love and Other Foreign Words is a contemporary YA book that has a clever concept unlike any book I’ve read before. Oftentimes, fantasy or dystopian YA novels are credited with unique ideas and immersion to a new thought but this contemporary set a new trend. Erin McCahan takes huge concepts such as languages and cultures and implants them into our everyday life. Josie, the main character, is a genius and her view of the world consists of determining the appropriate language for each situation and responding in a way that is akin to that culture. She fluently speaks high school, college, home, prom, the track team, the volleyball team, juniors, seniors, and bridesmaids but all she really wants is for someone else to speak Josie. The novel is written in first person which I found to be incredibly necessary for the reader to truly understand Josie and her actions; I love a first person POV if it adds to the character and overall story which is exactly what happened in this book. I found it fascinating to see into Josie’s mind because we all translate and appropriately respond to different people and “languages” every day but what to me is normal, to Josie is cultural. I have to lavish Erin McCahan with praises for her characters and their development. Every single character she wrote made sense and added to the story. The reader gets to see why all of these people are in Josie’s life and how they help her grow. I found Josie to be refreshing because she was a nerd but not the nerd that has been popping up in literature lately, qualified a nerd only because of their sight impairment; she was a nerd because of her IQ and social ineptitude. She can be rude, impulsive, harsh, and blunt but she does it out of love for the people in her life. I love that Josie was a likeable character but she had some qualities that we annoying because it made her real. Erin McCahan developed her characters in a way that we got to see their growth throughout the novel. I think as readers, we cling to characters and novels because we want to see them grow and in this novel we got just that. I was amazed at how well written and beautiful it all was. Her parents and sisters were written into the story in a way that made them major characters because they gave us insight to why Josie is the way she is. They all love her without question but they do struggle with her stubborn and rude ways, how they handle it shows how close of a family they are. One of my main praises for this novel was the use of vocabulary; since we are in Josie’s head, we get to read and learn vocabulary from her. This is what I love about reading books, it adds to your vocabulary without you even realizing it. I know that YA get a bad reputation for having poorly written or easy to read novels but Erin McCahan blows that notion out of the water. It was a cleverly written book and expertly organized. I felt like a Red Bull commercial at the conclusion of the book, my heart had wings. That’s incredibly corny to say but I stand by my statement. All of the happiness was in me. Note: There were some slows parts that seemed to be repetitive but it adds to the overall story. Overall: Josie was a multi-dimensional character that readers will love and cling to. I give this five stars because it was amazingly written and a truly sensational story.
I really enjoyed reading this book.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Josie is in high school, but also attending college as she is quite the smarty pants! With two older sisters and a few friends, Josie is at a turning point where she must find out what characteristics she will take with her into adulthood. And learn about this love thing! From the beginning, I loved Josie. I wanted to know everything about her and ride alongside her in her journey. Her family was perfectly executed - they were great second tier characters with enough storylines to not make Josie the entire central character, but at the same moment they did not distract. And her friends! I loved that although she may be a nerd of sorts, she still had a great group of friends who weren't all quirky and weird, but real - this book felt real which I absolutely adored.
I loved Josie! She was funny, smart, loyal - but it was probably her quick-wit and dry humor that endeared me to her the most. I wish that I could be as quick with the comebacks. As her family says, she is 15 going on 30 - and she juggles as much as some 30 year olds. She is a sophomore in high school in the afternoon, but as part of an accelerated program she is also a freshman in college in the mornings. She plays volleyball, runs track, and is very close with her family - which include two older sisters. She is okay with her oldest sister's husband, but when her middle sister comes home engaged, she has a hard time finding anything to like about him. She spends the majority of the book trying to find reasons to make her sister break up with him, or at least to make her family see that they are not right together. She is enthralled with languages and believes that everyone has their own language, and you won't really fit in if you don't speak their language. This made me think about the situations that I find personally to be the most uncomfortable - and when it comes down to it, it is because I don't feel that I will be able to speak the right language to fit in. Knowing this, I think it will make me approach some situations differently - and without such trepidation. Something else that she wrote that stuck with me is "It's easier to hate than to hurt." Just think about that for awhile and I am sure you will come up with an instance that you could apply this to your own life. I am passing this book along to my daughters.
My favorite: the dialogue Did I enjoy this book: I loved this book. It is funny, fast, sweet, exasperating. Wonderful. This is a book that I wanted to just sit down and read. I didn’t want to do anything else while I was reading it. I just wanted to enjoy it. The dialogue reminded me a lot of Gilmore Girls. I imagined Josie and Stu and her parents speaking rather fast and always quick with a retort. I love Josie. She is funny, witty, crazy intelligent, loving, caring. There were quite a few times that I laughed out loud because of what she said. At times, I had a hard time believing she was 15-almost-16. Sometimes I thought she was 12. Other times, 30. But I think that fit her character beautifully. I also enjoyed the fact that although she is a genius, she was a stereotypical nerd. She has friends; she plays sports. She does have some quirks. But all-in-all, she is a fantastic character with a great voice. All of the other characters added to Josie’s world. Some really understood her. Others tried to. Kate kind of bothered me for most of the book. I thought she acted more like a spoiled teen than a woman in her late twenties. Some of things she did rubbed me the wrong way. But, that’s Kate. I think it fit her as well. (I know that sounds strange, but that’s the best I can do.) Geoff bugged me for most of the book. Stu was a sweetheart. I liked him from the beginning. Josie’s parents cracked me up. They just rolled with Josie. They were really funny. My favorite thing about this book was the dialogue. I could hear it. I laughed with it. Just fantastic. Would I recommend it: Absolutely. I think I will be purchasing my own physical copy Love and Other Foreign Words. I know I will definitely reread this one. (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
I really enjoyed reading this book. Having teenage daughters myself, I could relate to the trials of being a teenage girl. Josie being so incredibly smart could have made her hard to relate to; instead it made me sympathetic to her extra struggles, such as sensory overload. Josie’s relationships with her sisters, Kate and Maggie, were great. Especially Kate and Josie’s. The understanding and love between them was so evident. Even when they were fighting and hating each other, you knew that if anyone else was involved they would have had each other’s back immediately. The ending was exactly what I hoped. It was hinted at throughout the book and I was hoping it wasn’t just a tease. I am very happy that Erin McCahan held out until the very end to let the reader see how Josie would handle the wedding and handle the word love. The pace never slows, the humor never stops. Love and Other Foreign Words is a book that I truly enjoyed and will recommend.