Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
What I drank prior: Wine and beer. You know, like normal
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.
Drunk Overview: I read this book for a book club and I had some thoughts. Okay, an asteroid is hurtling through space and is going to collide with Earth in like two weeks, Yuri, the main character, is from Russian and is sent to the US to help with his problem because of his expertise in anti-matter. Even though the US asked for his help, they completely disregard his focus and try to limit the damage until it turns out that can’t happen. Yuri, as a dumb teen, takes some moves taht I’m not going to talk about in the non-spoilery part. Also even though the world is about to end he, completely realisitcally for a teen, goes off on small adventures with a teen girl he fell in love with immeidately because his childhood didn’t really allow for normal interaction.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: This book was both really accurate and really not. First off At some point (I probably should have mentioned this earlier) he sees some classified inforamation (see dumb teenager antics) and the US decides they aren’t going to let him go home and he somehow overhears this. His reaction to that and so many of hte other things he deals with are really accurate. A kid who has never been properly socialized is going to take some level of friendship WAY OVER THE LINE. But I also found myself really frustrated with this book. Mostly in that his love interest, Dovie, is the epitome of manic pixie dream girl. Her family celebrates weird non-holidays and doesn’t seem to quite have proper boundaries. And then, just the way certain people function. I’ll get into this more later.
Characters: Yuri felt pretty fulfilled to me, but a lot of the background characters seemed a little flat. Dovie and most of her family felt like characters to fit a role, rather than any sort of realistic people. Dovie is the definition of a manic pixie dream girl (don’t get me started on her math teacher). Her brother is pretty great. But a number of the scientists don’t make sense. And there are a number of places where, after some pretty shady actions, Yuri is given way more power than he should have been given for no reason. There are just a number of situations where character decisions don’t make sense.
Plot: I’m actually a big fan of parts of this plot. The plot device of having the world end in two weeks gives an urgency to a bunch of actions while also making some of the stranger decisions make sense (not all of them, mind. But some of them). But it imposes a deadline that makes it not seem weird about the hours and is the cause of some of the difficulties. In this case it very much made sense.
Writing Style: It was a little bit simplistic. That being said, it is YA so it’s meant to be written in a tone that is a little more accessible. But it still would have been nice for a slightly different tone.
World building: I would have liked a little more of this. Part of the problem is that for the most part Yuri doesn’t see much of the world. He was sequestered as a child genius, and then in the US mostly stays in his hotel. As I mentioned before, Dovie’s family doesn’t seem quite really real which makes their part of the story and the world around them hard to believe. I really liked her brother, who is in a wheelchair and has a sometime morose sense of humor (which works really well with Yuri speaking English as a second language and being a little socially awkward) and the general dash to a border (not explaining this, nope) and the aftermath thereof. But it seemed for a variety of reasons like certain things and certain people (yes I’m including this in the world building section) could and should have been built out to make this feel a little more real. If realism was in any way the goal.
What to pair it with: Eh, the world is ending? A stiff shot of vodka and a hug from a friend.
Rating: 3.5/5 Shots