LOVE & LANGUAGE BARRIERS: Love in English Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Sixteen-year-old Ana is a poet and a lover of language. Except that since she moved to New Jersey from Argentina, she can barely find the words to express how she feels.

At first Ana just wants to return home. Then she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class, and discovers the universal language of racing hearts. But when she begins spending time with Neo, the Greek Cypriot boy from ESL, Ana wonders how figuring out what her heart wants can be even more confusing than the grammar they’re both trying to master. After all, 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 is witty and effervescent, while telling a beautifully observed story about what it means to become “American.”

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Everyone knows that I can spin anytime of year into contemporary book reading season, but February especially screams cozy contemporaries thanks to Galentine’s Day (forever thankful to Leslie Knope for solidifying this day as a holiday) and Valentine’s Day. If you’re looking for a book with a great female friendship, a love triangle, and most importantly, a girl trying to find herself in a new country where she struggles with the language, I can’t help but recommend Maria E. Andreu’s latest release, Love in English. 

Love in English follows sixteen-year old Ana, who has just immigrated to New Jersey from Argentina with her mother and is finally able to reunite with her father after years apart. Everyone has told Ana how lucky she is to be able to live and study in America, but Ana doesn’t feel so lucky herself. As a native Spanish speaker, she struggles to understand what her classmates are saying and their weird American phrases…unless it’s Harrison, the looks-like-a-Neftlix-movie-heartthrob of a guy in her math class. Ana only finds comfort and a way to express herself through poetry, but she begins to connect with another boy in her ESL class, Neo, and a girl named Altagracia, who knows a thing or two about how Ana feels in school.

Love in English is such a cute read to devour over a day this February. I flew through this one over a snowy weekend, given the book’s short chapters, poetry excerpts, and yes, the sweetness of Ana’s relationships with Harrison and Neo. Her relationships with them reminded me of the love triangles I used to devour in my early YA contemporary days. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for one guy over the other, but I did enjoy Ana’s relationship with Neo a tiny bit more because it was really cute to see them learn together, from ESL class conversations to watching classic 80s films together. I must admit though, my favorite relationship in the book was Ana’s friendship with Altagracia. She was a huge part in bringing Ana out of her shell and always gave her someone to rely on.

However, I do not want to underscore the deeper aspect of Love in English – Ana’s struggle to understand English and the mannerisms of her high school classmates. Ana’s poems tend to unpack what she cannot easily express in English. I love how Maria E. Andreu made the reader feel Ana’s struggles to understand with the use of #s to signify the words Ana could not translate into English. The book is told in English with a few breaks in Spanish, and in the author’s note, Mari E. Andreu acknowledges that is up to the reader to decide if the story is translated or told after Ana has learned English and able to reflect on her experience. I absolutely love this choice, but in my opinion, it doesn’t matter what language Ana is speaking because her story is a glimpse of what it’s like for a teen who isn’t fluent in English to go through American high school. It made me rethink my own perspective of people who struggle with English and the way students who are non-English speakers are treated by teachers and students alike. Just because Ana cannot express herself in English does not negate her emotions, experiences, or the memories & life she had before coming to America. 

Overall, Love in English was a sweet read that uncovers what is it like for a teenage immigrant to try to find a sense of belonging & acceptance in America. While Ana’s backstory is simplified, I really appreciated how much her story is based on Maria E. Andreu’s own immigration experiences. The love triangle was light and fluffy, but I definitely appreciated Ana’s story about language and belonging the most in this book. 

Is Love in English on your TBR? What are some of your YA contemporary book recommendations for Valentine’s Day? Share in the comments! 

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