Love In English – Maria E. Andreu – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 February 2021
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.
Love in English is a YA contemporary novel about fitting in and finding the words to speak in your own voice to reflect your heart. This book is written by an author who can relate to how hard it is to move to a new country and learn a new language, and how complicated it is to balance trying to fit in with the ‘American’ culture, but also retaining what is special and true about your own culture, self and family.
When Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she doesn’t expect it to be so hard or so isolating. Her father, having lived in the US for a few years, demands that she and her mother speak only English – a language of which she only knows a little. High school seems in some ways so different and yet so similar to the things she saw in movies. She is a poet and loves learning the strange idiosyncrasies of the English language, but she longs to be able to truly communicate.
Set against powerful themes of immigration, belonging and challenging the ‘American Dream’, In Love in English Ana has to stand up to her father, to embrace what she is and where she came from, as well as where she is now. This book is about finding out who you truly are, even if that is not as clear or defined as you thought it once was.
There is of course a romance focus in the book. A love triangle, I might note. First, we have Harrison. Very American. Very cute. Ana starts to help him in math. And then there is Neo, a Greek boy who is in her ESL class. They bond over shared experiences of not understanding what most of the population are saying and old movies they have to watch for class. To the reader, it might be obvious who Ana is supposed to be with, but this book is all about the journey and not just the destination, so be prepared for Ana to spend some time (lots of time, actually) unsure about what she should do or who she should chose.
Ana’s poetry is a wonderful addition to the story and so clearly reflects the emotions she is feeling and the complexity of her situation – a situation faced by so many.
Love In English is an important novel about shared understanding and an important voice for teen readers of all backgrounds. This book is quick and easy to read and will appeal to romance and light contemporary readers.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Language, English as a second language, poetry, high school, immigration, romance.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f*** (4), sh** (5), pi** (1),
Published: 2 February 2021 by Balzer+Bray
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.