I was granted eARC access to Love in English a little after publication day via NetGalley as a perk of being a HarperCollins Canada Influencer. Thank you to my contacts at HCC for this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
Love in English
by Maria E. Andreu
Published 2 February 2021
Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA Romance
Page Count: 336
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Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.
All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.
But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.
With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”
My Rating: 4 Stars
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Love in English is both a classic high school love triangle sort of story and also an exploration of the immigrant experience in modern-day America. Ana’s family just moved here from Argentina and she quickly finds out that four years of English classes back home did NOT prepare her for classes in English here in the States. In math class, she meets a charming all-American boy named Harrison who needs her help with the subject and likes the way she rolls the Rs in his name. In ESL class she meets Neo, a shy Greek boy who dreams of being an architect and quickly develops an American movie viewing hobby with Ana in the school’s library. Both catch feelings for her, but which will she choose? Meanwhile a more experienced fellow foreign student, Altagracia, befriends Ana and shows her the ways of teenage girls in America. Instagram, makeup, fashion, pop culture, everything!
I love the way Ana’s language barrier is portrayed throughout the book. Anything she doesn’t understand is wawawa like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons. I’ve never been in an immigrant situation, but I am multilingual and I completely feel that “I have no idea what the middle of that sentence” feeling from many, many language classes. I can’t possibly ever grasp the difficulty of learning other subjects and making friends while not being fluent in the language, but this book provides a unique look into that sort of situation. My family hosted international students when I was a kid, and I imagine this is exactly what their experiences were like. I do remember many evenings trying to help them with their homework but not having the shared vocabulary to communicate effectively.
This book is very typically YA in that it deals with the love triangle, classic teenage miscommunication tropes, and minor teenage acts of rebellion. If you despise love triangles, maybe skip this one. There’s enough family life and gal pal and general classtime scenes that it isn’t the whole book, but it’s there, and its inescapable. Team Neo, by the way! He’s clearly the more genuine personality.
I wish we got more of Ana’s friend and any other social interactions she had, and I wasn’t convinced of what Ana saw in Harrison at any point, so the love triangle didn’t hit as hard for me. It also might have been fun to have a scene here and there where other students were getting Ana to teach THEM words (in Spanish.) Again, I grew up with international students in my house. I know that happens! Especially when the topic of food comes up, those words must be pronounced correctly!
All in all this is a very cute teenage romance with a unique immigrant/language-learner perspective and I really enjoyed it. If you like YA romance, read this!
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