If you’re the type of literature-loving pop culturalist who likes to read a story before you see it on the big screen, you should clear some space ASAP in your schedule for “Love and Other Foreign Words.”
Hollywood has been drooling over this smart new YA romance since way back in 2012, with movie rights snapped up nearly two years before it was set to release. And with the book finally hitting shelves next week, MTV News checked in with author Erin McCahan to get some inside dirt on what to expect from the novel, why contemporary teen love stories are such a hot ticket right now, and which celebs she wants to see bringing her characters to life on the big screen.
“Love and Other Foreign Words” centers on Josie, a linguistically inclined teenager who thinks of every social group as though it’s a foreign country: one with its own customs, culture, and most importantly, language.
But where Josie has learned to be fluent in a host of social languages, she still doesn’t understand love — which is a problem, because her older sister, Kate, is about to get married to a guy so atrocious that Josie just knows she’s making a terrible mistake.
Needless to say, Josie is a fresh kind of character in an oeuvre that’s been dominated lately by tough-girl actionistas — and she’s not out to compete with them, either.
“I love the action-hero girls we’re seeing now in a lot of YA, especially the characters who employ their wits along with specific physical skill sets,” McCahan confessed via email. “But there will never be Josie Sheridan action figures. If she ever got her hands on a bow or a wand, I’m pretty sure she’d just end up hurting herself.”
Instead, Josie faces challenges that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever been in high school… or out of it. For McCahan, the idea for the story’s concept stemmed from her own experience at a bridal shower where everyone — everyone except her, that is — was going hog-wild over a set of designer drinking glasses.
“The woman actually pulled one of the glasses out of the box and presented it to us as if it were a rare jewel, and this group collectively thrilled to it the way crowds thrill to fireworks,” McCahan continued. “And it was all in English, but it was a foreign language to my ears.
“I could have learned the language of designer drinking glasses if I had wanted to. But no one is ever fully herself in a foreign language. I’ve thought about this ever since then, and I found myself wishing I had known this in high school, and I began wondering, ‘Well, what if I had?’”
Meanwhile, “Love and Other Foreign Words” can be counted as part of a growing trend toward more contemporary, realistic YA romance, which then find a second audience in moviegoers who like their love stories relatable.
And on the heels of films like “The Spectacular Now” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” this book is perfectly positioned to make a splash on screen. The bad news: McCahan can’t reveal details about the state of the movie’s development. But if anyone asks, she has some inspired ideas for its cast.
For Josie, she’s quick to suggest Mia Wasikowska, “who is one of those women who will never age. She’s not going to look 30 until she’s 80.”
And for Josie’s best friend Stu, a casting pick that takes us over the line from cinema to performance art: “One Direction. They could just take turns filling the role and faking an American accent.”
“Love and Other Foreign Words” is available for pre-order now, and will be in bookstores May 1.