Teen Reviews

Read + Review — Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

learningtoswearThis book is about Yuri Strelnikov, a Russian expert on antimatter and a 17 year old boy. He is sent to NASA to stop an asteroid from obliterating California and the entire West Coast. However, upon arrival, Yuri soon learns that his ideas are unimportant to his fellows and that, more shockingly, he will not be returning home to Moscow (though admittedly, that second bit is his own fault). One day, when he goes for a walk, he finds himself on the outside of a bridge, and falls, accidentally. Fortunately, he is saved by Dovie Collum, who takes him to her house and helps him with the crushing burden of saving not-his-world and sacrificing his own.

I enjoyed it and found myself relating strongly with Yuri. Despite being a genius, he suffers ageist prejudices from his senior scientists; as a Russian, a foreigner, he is met with distrust. External circumstance renders him alone. To himself, he is struggling with a desperate fear of death and a desperate longing for a Nobel Prize, which he has been working towards his whole life. However, when he comes to the United States, he leaves his work vulnerable and ripe for the stealing. Feeling alone is common amongst teenagers, as is a desire to be viewed as an equal. Fearing death and needing recognition – these are universal and human emotions. To read what feel like isolated growing pains on such a dramatic scale was deeply therapeutic to me, and though from a new book, Yuri felt charmingly familiar.

To me, the most memorable part of the book is when Yuri meets Myshka the mouse in the cafeteria and brought him back to his room. Alone in a strange place, Yuri feels the need to take in this creature and care for it.


Reviewed by Addie, Grade 10, Libbie Mill Area Library

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