Recently, I had the pleasure of touring Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, Georgia. No, you haven’t accidentally started reading a travel column–you can check out Stephanie Spitler’s column if that’s what you’re looking for! I promise, this story is leading its way back to YA. Anyway, as you may or may not know if you’re a fan of Southern Gothic literature, Flannery O’Connor was a great writer and a unique person. As a child, she mostly hated being around other children and called her parents by their first names. Basically, she was a little adult.
On the drive back from Savannah, I started reading Erin McCahan’s Love and Other Foreign Words and found that the main character Josie Sheridan reminded me a lot of everything I’d just heard about Flannery O’Connor. Josie is 16 going on 30. She spends half of her school day taking college classes, likes old music (specifically Styx), and doesn’t really relate to other kids her age. In fact, she’s much less interested in things like school dances and much more interested in figuring out the truly important things, like how much rat each person inadvertently consumes in his or her lifetime. You know, the essential question we all grapple with.
Josie likes to understand things, but the one thing she can’t figure out is love. Why, for example, does her sister Kate want to get married to Geoffrey Stephen Brill? Geoff, in Josie’s eyes, is a know-it-all, a total pill, and the reason why her sister is changing into an insufferable bridezilla. Not to mention that Josie can’t figure out her own love life, or if she’s even able to fall in love at all–with someone her own age, that is.
Josie Sheridan is great because she’s a true-blue lovable weirdo, the type of character I really enjoy seeing. She isn’t easygoing or particularly pleasant. She’s pretty bossy, a little bit annoying, and she seems like she would be a difficult person to be friends with. She is, however, authentically herself, even when being herself gets in her into trouble. She’s a fun character to read, and I think you’ll love being inside her head as much as I did.
-Okay, this might be one of those things that’s only a highlight to me, but this book is set in Columbus! Where I live! There aren’t many books set in my lovely city, so it was the biggest thrill to read Love and Other Foreign Words and think, “Hey! I know that neighborhood!” or “That’s the mall with the Anthropologie!”
-In my research (aka Googling), I saw some comparisons between Love and Other Foreign Words and Sixteen Candles. There are some definite similarities–I mean, Josie seems as totally over weddings as Molly Ringwald is in this picture:
However, Love and Other Foreign Words reminded me a lot of YA book I wrote about awhile ago, Sister of the Bride. They’re both about a sister’s wedding and involve a main character trying to figure out her own love life.
–Love and Other Foreign Words may be a movie someday! I’d love to see Josie on the big screen. In this interview, Erin McCahan says she’d like to see all the members of One Direction play the role of Josie’s best friend Stu. Listen, I’m just speaking as an adult woman who saw the the 3D One Direction documentary in the theatre, but I think those five boys should most certainly play Stu. They would imbue the film with youthful joie de vivre, as well as some delightful harmonies.
Love and Other Foreign Words comes out on May 1st–next week! Be sure to let me know what you think of it if you read it! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.