Love and Other Foreign Words

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Love and Other Foreign Words Book Poster Image
Gifted teen girl discovers meaning of love in cute novel.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Because Josie is what educators might label "profoundly gifted," she can't help but correct others. Geoff, similarly, does the same and gives little lectures about everything from etymology to infectious diseases to international cuisine. Readers will pick up trivia about various topics.

Positive Messages

Josie's journey teaches kids that love isn't easily definable but you know it when you feel it and really mean it. Both Josie's and Stu's approach to dating shows that you shouldn't say "I love you" just because someone says it to you first. The book also stresses the importance of sisterhood and friendship but also how the love between two people doesn't need to be understood by others to be real.

Positive Role Models & Representations

For all of her quirks and flaws, Josie is a very loyal and attentive daughter, sister, and friend. She's surrounded by an inner circle of people who understand her and are patient with her offbeat idiosyncrasies, her bluntness, her sensory issues, and her criticism.


A few passionate kisses between teens and mild PDA by an engaged couple.


Rare language includes one "f-ck" (written like that instead of spelled out completely) and one or two uses of "s--t," "a--hole," and other insults like "retarded."


Near-constant references to the band Styx and its original frontman Dennis DeYoung, their albums and most famous songs. One reference to a Subaru station wagon.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine at dinner and parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan is a coming-of-age story for younger teen readers. It focuses on an extremely gifted 15-year-old junior who has to translate teenspeak and other foreign (to her) concepts into a language she can understand. There's rare offensive language ("s--t," "a--hole," and one "f--k" that isn't spelled out; plus the insult "retarded"), a few kisses, and adults drink wine at dinner or special events, so this is a story that even mature tween (11-12) readers of YA will understand. Readers who like books about quirky smart girls, close families, and best friends who turn to more will especially appreciate this book.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybooks for juliet June 17, 2018

One of the most satisfying books I've read since Simon vs The Homo sapiens Agenda

I frankly loved this book. This one is one of those books you wish were real and you were on of the characters. A heartwarming tale with such accuracy on the l... Continue reading

What's the story?

Fifteen-year-old Josie Sheridan lives quite the charmed life: She's the baby of a close-knit family; a super genius who's both a junior in high school and a first year in college; and a tall, athletic blonde. She's so smart she has to "translate" the world around her into a language she can understand -- a daily chore that can be exhausting except around her family and lifelong best friends, neighbors Stu and his sister Sophie. Josie's world gets infinitely more complicated when her adored older sister Kate gets engaged to Geoff, an insufferable intellectual Josie can't stand. At first Josie vows to break up her sister's engagement, but as the wedding date approaches, she starts to realize that love (in all its forms) is the hardest language to understand.

Is it any good?

The book jacket blurb for this young adult novel references two of the genre's best authors, which naturally leads to high expectations that are unfortunately unmet and undeserved. Josie might be a "gifted" protagonist like Hazel Grace and Cath, but the comparisons are limited to their intelligence and the way they take a while to realize how they feel about their love interests. Josie isn't a likable main character; she can be alternately too mature and ridiculously juvenile. For example, Josie's antagonism toward Kate's fiance Geoff (and jealousy at their impending wedding) would be believable if she were 10-12 but seems selfish and off-putting at age 15-16.

The strengths of the story are the way the Sheridan family is depicted and how deeply the idea of love vs. like is explored. Clearly a surprise late-in-life third child, Josie is refreshingly close to her family, preferring to spend time with her parents and older sisters than to party with school friends. The romance in the book is on the light and cute side -- but also surprisingly thoughtful. Josie and her best friend Stu are not the type of teens to say "I love you" to their boyfriend and girlfriend unless they honestly, truly mean it (even if someone says it to them first).  Although some readers will want to shake Josie into self awareness, there is enough humor and depth (about intelligence, crushes, sisters, and love) to make this a sweet read for younger teens and fans of clean romance.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about romantic coming-of-age tales. What are some of your favorite "light romances"? How does the idea of love differ in this book than other books, where love seems easy and instant?

  • Josie is a gifted main character. How does she compare to other super-smart characters? Does she behave believably, or is it hard to relate to her?

  • Unlike the many only-child YA protagonists, Josie has siblings and is particularly close to them. What do you think of her closeness to her family? Why don't more YA books feature such tight families?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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