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.
Description taken from Goodreads.
When I first heard about Learning to Swear in America, I thought it would be predominately a coming-of-age story about a boy genius making his way in a foreign country. It had the potential to be cute and meaningful in a nerdy, slow, and introspective way, and I was ready for that novel.
What I wasn’t ready for was yet another attempt to emulate John Green from a singularly unexpected source. Instead of Little Man Tate and Ender’s Game meets Coming to America, I got a female love interest who’s just barely above classifying as a manic pixie dream girl, a main character whose genius clearly doesn’t include narration, and a wacky side character who made the dialogue worth reading. The NASA people aren’t even worth mentioning. I was most disappointed by how that situation was handled. I did think the way Yuri was treated was realistic, but the spite and distrust his colleagues had for him from the very beginning was forced and made the pace drag.
This book had the opportunity to write about a really incredible opportunity and several challenges faced by an altogether intelligent, kind, and quirky kid, and I would read that any day of the week. Unfortunately, Learning to Swear in America didn’t take that opportunity.
Other than my misconception of the story, it has a compelling setting, some viable life lessons, and a few true gems dialogue-wise. If you get past the beginning, it folds more naturally into the feeling of a contemporary novel, and I got the feeling that fans of Adi Alsaid and other similar authors could be really interested in this. Writing-wise, it’s slow but it’s not unreadable, and I already have an ARC of Kennedy’s next book, so I’m looking forward to seeing what hashes out in this next one. Overall, I would recommend this one, but only with the understanding that it’s not a sciency-type novel. For that, I’m still holding out hope on Heather Kaczynski’s Dare Mighty Things. 2 stars.