Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ARC Review: Learning to Swear in America

Title: Learning to Swear in America
Author: Katie Kennedy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Source: ARC from Bloomsbury

Brimming with humor and one-of-a-kind characters, this end-of-the world novel will grab hold of Andrew Smith and Rainbow Rowell fans.

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been called to NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster. He knows how to stop the asteroid: his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize--if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But Yuri's 17, and having a hard time making older, stodgy physicists listen to him. Then he meets Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and save a life worth living.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with questions of the universe.

My Review

Katie Kennedy's Learning to Swear in America first caught my attention during at the end of last year. I thought it seemed like a fun take on the whole "end-of-the-world via space matter" trope, so I made a mental note to read it. I was incredibly excited when Bloomsbury sent a copy, so I read it at the first chance that I got. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to get to it until its release day, and it did take me a while to read. But it was a pretty good book, and I'm looking forward to more from Katie Kennedy.

The world has a problem. A giant asteroid is heading straight toward the planet, and everyone at NASA is frantically searching for a way to avoid an impact that would ruin life as we know it. Their answer? Bring in Russia's most brilliant mind, seventeen-year-old Yuri Strelnikov. When Yuri gets to the United States, he quickly realizes that he's a misfit. His colleagues are decades older than he is, and he doesn't really know how to blend in with the Americans his age. As he's trying to figure out solving the biggest problem since the dinosaurs died out, he realizes that companionship is something he just might need to lead a normal life.

Honestly, the plot of Learning to Swear in America made for a fun book when thinking about the concept of it. Who wouldn't want to read a book about an unlikely hero facing the end of the world? Yuri's journey from Russia to Los Angeles was quirky and full of the many emotions that teens experience. The idea of a teenager saving the world from an asteroid added to the uniqueness of the book. However, I was expecting more funny moments and hilarious moments from the book, especially because of the title. I was a little bummed out when the main character, Yuri, only briefly learns how to swear in America.

I did enjoy the plot of Ms. Kennedy's debut novel, but the writing style wasn't enough to make it a stellar read for me. While I normally enjoy reading in the third person, I just felt like something was missing as Ms. Kennedy narrated Yuri's story. There were times when I became disinterested and bored, and I just wish that there was a little more pizazz in the way that the story was told to readers.

The characters in Learning to Swear in America have been compared to Rainbow Rowell's characters. When I think of Ms. Rowell's characters, I think of people who have taught lessons and stayed with me. I didn't get that feeling from Ms. Kennedy's characters Yuri, Dovie, and Lennon. Yes, they have the quirks of Rainbow Rowell's characters, but I don't really see me remembering and yearning to live in this world forever.

Overall Learning to Swear in America is a very solid debut from Katie Kennedy. There are some fun moments in this book about a subject that would make anyone nervous, and I think there are many valuable life lessons that teenage and adult readers will be able to take away from this novel about feeling like the a square peg in a round hole. I think anyone who's ever felt like an outcast will really enjoy this book.

Katie Kennedy is a history professor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (closer to Wisconsin, really). She studied Russian History in college. She has a son in high school and a daughter in college. Learning to Swear in America is her first novel.

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