Wednesday, February 3, 2021

YA Contemporary/Romance review of Love in English by Maria E. Andreu

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu 
Format:  ARC-paperback 
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray
Number of pages:  336
Published:  February 2nd, 2021
Source: Publisher via BookSparks 

Opening Lines: "I smooth the front of my skirt, then run a finger on the checked gray felt of the front seat of the car."

Sixteen-year-old Ana immigrated from Argentina to New Jersey with her mother, finally reuniting with her father, who had been living alone for the past few years before bringing them to the United States.  Despite having studied English in Argentina, Ana doesn't feel confident enough with the language to be starting her junior year at her new American high school.  She does know enough English to comprehend a word or sentence here and there, but speaking conversationally still makes her feel like she's grasping for just the right words to convey her thoughts.  At first all Ana can think about is trying to convince her parents to let her return to Argentina, but then she meets Harrison, a cute American boy in her math class and is instantly infatuated.  Ana is also partnered with Neo, a Greek boy, in ESL and begins to see that they have a lot in common.  Especially when it comes to understanding the idiosyncrasies of the English language, and 80's movies.  Finally there's Altagracia, or Gracie as everyone calls her because they don't know how to pronounce her name.  Gracie is fluent in Spanish, has a huge Instagram following, and has taken Ana under her wing to help her acclimate to her new high school.  The story follows Ana through her junior year as she juggles learning English, falls in love and tries to fit in at her new school, while also struggling to live up to her parents expectations.    

 Love in English is the kind of story that instantly spoke to me, one I could relate to and had an instant personal connection to.   Coming from a background in speech language pathology, I've always been interested in words, languages and how we combine those words to communicate our thoughts and ideas.  Words have always been very important to me and I love the way that language and culture was expressed in the story.  English is often considered to be a challenging language to learn, when compared to other languages.  The way two words are spelled differently, have different meanings, yet sound phonetically the same, like knight and night.  English contains many slang words and is filled with expressions that are more figurative versus literal in their translation.  While my experiences didn't include ESL, I've spent a large part of my career on communication, written expression and improving social communication.  After reading Andreu's introduction, I was very touched by her inspiration for the story and knew this would be a special kind of read.  The author met and exceeded my expectations.  Andreu prefaces the story by explaining that she was born in Spain, lived in Argentina and later came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant across the US-Mexican border at the age of eight.  She drew from her own personal experiences and difficulties in understanding the English language to write Love in English.  

I enjoyed the way Andreu used ###'s for the words that Ana didn't understand, the reader is forced to fill in the gaps similar to the way Ana did during conversations.  It really drives home the importance of not speaking quickly and allowing enough time for an ESL learner to ask questions or to process what the speaker has just said so that breakdowns in communication will not occur.  Andreu also included Spanish excerpts so that readers who are not native Spanish speakers may develop empathy for what it might feel like to not comprehend what is being said, while also encouraging the reader to explore the Spanish sentences for themselves.  I also so loved Ana's poems, especially the ones with English expressions that are commonly used and don't translate very well, for example something like "the right to bear arms."  The author also interjected humor as she explored the complexities of the English language, especially when Ana and Neo analyzed Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink.   Love in English was a truly delightful and creative read inspired by the author's own experiences learning to speak English, and a book that I know I will return to quite often.  

** Thank you to Balzer + Bray and BookSparks for my review copy. **

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard of this book before. I am intrigued and the main character sounds great. I like that readers can tell the words she doesn't understand. Thanks for sharing. :)