Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy is a cute and hilarious YA novel about Yuri, a 17 year old Russian physicist. Yuri is recruited by NASA/JPL to help stop a giant asteroid from colliding with Earth and taking out California. Yuri struggles to find his place among the older physicists on his team and trying to get them on-board with a plan he knows will save everyone. The issue is that although Yuri is on his way to winning a Nobel Prize for his work, he lacks social skills. As in, he has none what so ever, and this makes him come across as cold, rude, and ill-mannered to his co-workers. Which makes his new environment difficult for Yuri to adjust to and leaves him feeling isolated. Along the way, Yuri meets a quirky 16 year old girl named Dovie. Dovie is an artistic and quirky 16 year old girl whose father works as a janitor at the JPL. Dovie completely turns Yuri’s world upside down and makes him re-evaluate what is important to him.
I really enjoyed this book. Kennedy’s writing is clever and witty. Her characters are engaging and fully fleshed out so they practically come to life off the page. Although, this book has a diverse cast of characters I cannot say whether or not this has accurate representation as I have never met anyone from Russia. What I can say is that I found Yuri’s character to be very endearing and completely awkward. I just wanted to give the poor guy a hug and tell him to not give up. He faces so many obstacles in his work environment because he is discriminated against due to his age and because he is Russian. My other favorite character is Dovie. She is unique and artistic. Her point of view on the world is different from Yuri’s. Yuri is more of a logical thinker while Dovie is an intuitive thinker. This works for them as a pairing because they balance each other out.
This isn’t a romance though it does have romantic elements. The overall plot is about Yuri saving the world by stopping this gigantic asteroid that is intent on destroying it. There is so much tension in this story that I could not put it down. The tension continues to build with every chapter. I won’t tell you if he manages to save the world or not. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
All in all this was a fun and surprisingly insightful read. There are times where things get pretty deep into the philosophical side of things, but those moments are tucked in between moments of off the wall humor. There is quite a bit of profanity though so if that bothers you considered yourself warned. I ended up rating this a 3.5 stars out of 5. It was a bit too cutesy for me, but I think because it wasn’t really intended for an audience my age. It was very entertaining and adorable though, so if that is your thing then you should check it out.