Love in English by Maria E. Andrew

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Ana is a 16-year-old recent arrival to the USA from Argentina. English is her second language and the nuance of life in her new adopted home has silenced her . . . there are few words for all the emotions and dilemmas that she faces as she tries to fit in. Who is she when she does not have the words to explain? But the cute American boy who needs help with Maths, and the shy Greek migrant stumbling with his English in her ESL class become part of her experience of life in the USA. Romance stumbles into the sphere of life, but how does she find the words to communicate what she feels? Can she be the Spanish-speaking and confident person she used to be or must she reinvent herself? Will her poetry give her opportunity to find words for all that wells up inside? And will her family understand her as she matures and changes in her new cultural home?

This is a creative exploration of life, love and the experience of being wordless. The author cleverly creates this wordlessness with blanked words to communicate the struggle of understanding life when you have no vocabulary or miss too many words. As she learns the language, these moments of confusion lessen. The struggle of romancing two classmates and the distress of misunderstanding frequently is highlighted in this romance tale. Interspersed into the narrative is Ana’s poetry, written in English in her ESL class as she struggles with words and ideas. The characters in this book are likeable and the secondary school setting will make this familiar to young Australian readers. Female readers aged 14+ will enjoy this romance tale, but will also empathise with Ana in her struggles with identity in a new culture.

Themes: Romance, ESL, Language, Identity.

Carolyn Hull