By Erin McCahan
Available now from Dial (Penguin Random House)
Josie Sheridan is very analytical, a bit distant from her own life. She dissects people's words, the way the same phrase can mean two totally different things depending on tone, speaker, audience, and other context. She's pretty good at responding to people the way they expect, since she's so good at breaking down communication. But she's missing a deeper, natural feel for interaction.
Josie's need to understand love comes to a head when her sister introduces her fiance to the family. Geoff is pretentious and awkward and Josie just knows she can't let Kate marry him. I liked that we were clearly getting a biased view of Geoff (and Kate), although Geoff did make a genuinely bad first impression. At the same time, Josie's biases muddled some of Kate's character progression. Geoff stays about the same, but Kate becomes needlessly cruel. It's a fairly abrupt character change and I didn't really buy the resolution. It wasn't earned.
I did think Josie's relationships with boys worked well. Josie has many sort of love interests, but there is no love triangle. Author Erin McCahan does a good job of capturing such things as that guy you really like but just don't love and that embarrassing crush on someone older who is basically who you want to be when you grow up. She also describes Josie's relationships with other girls pretty well. It brought back memories of all those high school friends who were basically friends because you were in the same extracurricular activity.
I suspect that precocious teen girls will devour LOVE AND OTHER FOREIGN WORDS. I think Josie's story is very relateable, struggling to find your place when you almost but don't quite fit in. The family shenanigans will entertain anyone who has been at odds with their siblings. As a bonus, the romantic plotlines never take over the story despite "love" being the first word in the title. McCahan get high marks for realism in her latest contemporary novel.