Love And Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Love And Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan | Book ReviewLove and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan
Published by Penguin on 2014-05-01
Genres: Family, Love & Romance, Marriage & Divorce, Siblings, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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.

Are you looking for a fantastic under the radar young adult book? Love And Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan is a book that I have not seen receive much acclaim in the circles that I run in, but it’s certainly a book that deserves to be on your stacks. It is a book that I went into with no expectations except that it would be a contemporary book and that there might be something to do with love. What I got was so, so much more. Love And Other Foreign Words stars one of the most real, most authentic characters I have come across, despite her being different from most teenagers that I have met. McCahan’s book is vibrant and funny and touching.

Love And Other Foreign Words is about Josie, a fifteen year old girl who is a genius. Josie lives in an upscale Ohio neighborhood with her psychiatrist father, nurse instructor mother and has two sisters who no longer live at home, due to being adults. Across the street are her best friends Stu and Sophie Wagemaker, in fact she calls their mother Aunt Pat, so people assume they are all related but they are not. Anyways, the book opens and Josie is about to meet her sister Kate’s new boyfriend, Geoff. Friends, Josie HATES Geoff. She cannot stand him. Unfortunately for her, Kate and Geoff are getting married and so, Josie believes it is her task to prevent the wedding from happening because Geoff is not worthy of Kate. This is in sharp contrast to Josie’s other sister Maggie and her husband Ross, who has Josie’s full approval. Beyond this, Josie has taken it upon herself to discover what romantic love feels like, so she pursues a variety of romantic interests. Meanwhile, Josie is taking college classes and finds herself obsessed with linguistics and translating words and body language into things that make sense to her.

Josie is such a unique character. I mean, the way she thinks and speaks is just so different. She comes across as slightly clinical in her manner and her speech. However, at the same time, McCahan gives us these glimpses of Josie’s heart and we see that she cares so deeply for the people in her life that she loves. It would be a mistake to write Josie off because she doesn’t quite seem as warm as all of the other characters in this book. Also, what I did not expect was how funny Josie could be. That girl is hysterical and makes some of the most entertaining observations. You’ll have to read the book to find out, but I’ll say that she reminded me a little bit of Jessica Darling and her feelings about the Clueless Crew, only you know, Josie is a genius and totally precocious, but not terrible about it.

Love And Other Foreign Words contains a well plotted romantic storyline. What I like is that the romance takes place over the course of the entire novel and we see different sorts of romance explored. We see the relationship between Josie and Stefan, a boy from school who is not a genius and who Josie really likes, however he’s one that she finds herself constantly translating around. Then we see Josie have the most incredibly huge crush on someone who is totally taboo. Then we see, well, I won’t tell you but suffice to say I was very pleased by how her romantic storyline resolves itself. Truly, this book does a great job of showing crushes, first relationships, and perhaps even true love. It’s depicted in a very sensical, well-drawn fashion.

As for the Erin McCahan’s writing style, going off the blurb description of how this was supposed to be Rainbow Rowell meets John Green is a set up for failure. I mean, sure, yes the main character is like a John Green main character in that she spends a lot of time in her head and a lot of time thinking big ideas and her reaction and relation to other people. However, there’s just something different about Josie. I don’t quite know how to quantify it. Now, as for the Rainbow Rowell comparison, maybe in that there are relationships described in this book. However, I think this book is not a conglomeration of those two authors. Instead, the writing of Love And Other Foreign Words stands on it’s own merits. Sure, the writing is a bit strange at first, at least compared to other young adult that I’ve read, however, keep reading and you’ll get a book that is full of heart and that stands out from the crowd.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’m so glad you liked this book. It became an instant favorite of mine and sits proudly on my “favorites” book shelf. I wish it got more attention, because I think it’s simply awesome. Josie was such a unique character and I loved her family. I was surprised how many times this book made me laugh out loud as well. Great review, April!

    • Me too — re: more attention. Josie is a really great character and this book is just so well written with such a strong voice.

      I definitely laughed out loud too!

  2. The title is wonderful and this book sounds right up my alley since I live in Ohio and I’m a psychologist. Excellent review and thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I just got this book from the library. Glad you enjoyed it. Josie sounds like a very unique character and I can’t wait to meet her!

  4. I unexpectedly loved her debut I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU SOMEONE ELSE, and I’m hoping that with this book and the big focus on contemporary novels, readers will start to notice McCahan’s work, because she’s one of the best YA contemporary authors out there. (Ditto for Wendy Wunder, who also just released her second novel.)

    • I think I have a copy of her debut floating on my shelves somewhere. I haven’t read it yet, but someday soon I think I will.

      I hope readers notice her work too — it’s so good.

      AHH! I love Wendy Wunder, her one book, I think it was called The Improbability of Miracles or maybe I am wrong on the title, was soo good. I listened to the audio and loved it.

  5. Okay, I just put this book on hold at the library. I really do enjoy reading books about people who are just a little different. Josie seems like a fun character, and I really want to read the hilarious parts.

    I am sort of getting a little sick to all the comparisons to John Green lately. I mean, I love John Green, but, like you said, with blurbs like this, it sort of sets up that book for failure.

    Thanks for the review, April.

    • YAY! I love all the library love this book seems to get — a few other commenters mentioned getting it at their libraries.

      Josie is so unique — she’s got a different way of thinking and looking at the world and I loved it.

      I agree – like, let’s stop these comparisons and find something or someone else to compare the book to.

  6. I’ve been reading really good reviews on this, and I’ll definitely be checking it out! I love the synopsis, and the fact that it has a funny protagonist is a huge plus!

    Great review!


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