Book Review: Learning to Swear in America, Katie Kennedy

Learning to Swear in AmericaLearning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary: 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.



This was so good omg, I have so many quotes, and I just want to gush about it all day long.



I’m still having trouble articulating what I feel about this book, but I’ll do my best here. Learning to Swear in America was probably one of the most fantastic ya novels I’ve read, and I’m already pretty sure it’s going to be one of my favorite books of the year.

Yuri flushed and glanced up. The windows were lined with people looking out into the street. “Perhaps I overreacted?” The director laughed and slapped him between his shoulder blades. “I didn’t want to have to drink my urine,” Yuri said.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to laugh as much as I did while reading this book. It was honestly on Good Omens level of funny, and I spent about half the book cracking up and the other half with a stupid grin on my face. It was, quite honestly, an amazing feeling.

Yuri finished his salad and stared balefully at the empty bowl. Americans considered a pile of wet lettuce to be a salad. How had these people won the Cold War?

This book was definitely about a 17-year-old genius Russian physicist working with NASA to try to stop an asteroid from hitting the Earth, but it was also about his struggles to fit in wherever he went, and his ambitions for the future. Yuri Strelnikov is one truly fantastic character, and his voice was just so relatable and hilarious. He’s a kid who doesn’t fit in with other kids, because he’s seen too much, and who doesn’t fit in with the adults, because he’s seen too little. He’s at this weird in-between stage, and he’s just kind of…drifting.

He exhaled in disgust. “High school is boredom punctuated by humiliation.”
“You got that right, Science Boy.”


Dovie, who was also the love interest, was also fantastic as a character. She was Yuri’s friend first, and she was more than just quirky– she had a personality. She had her ups and downs, she definitely had her quirks but didn’t let them define her… She recognized that the world was trying to put her in a box, and she wasn’t going to let it happen.

Dovie put the cookie jar back in her closet and stood, leaning outside its door. “I grew up in a purple house with hippie parents- it’s safe, you know? It’s fun. And I’m going to have to go out on my own someday pretty soon. And the world is already telling me to be less. To prune my palette.” Her eyes were wet. “I don’t want to do that.” She smiled weakly, and a tear spilled down her cheek. “Len doesn’t want to stay here, and I guess I don’t want to leave.”

This is how you write strong female characters, people.

And Lennon! Freaking Lennon! The incredible spotlight stealer! He’s in a wheelchair, but that’s not his whole personality. There was more to him than just “that disabled character who’s there so that the characters can have a frank discussion about privelege”- he was more than that. He was more than a message, he was his own person, and really freaking hilarious at that.

“Wait,” Lennon said suspiciously. “What are you guys going to do?”
“None of your business,” Mike said. “You’re not a member of the Friends-of-Lennon Club.”
“That’s because I’m Lennon!”

“Even at my pity party my friends get the attention,” Lennon said.

He flipped it over to look at the cover. Techniques for Self-Gratification in the Male: An Illustrated Guide. He was going to kill Lennon.

I just…Lennon is my favorite for all time.

Honestly, the characters were maybe the best part of this book. There were a lot of great parts, but the characters really resonated with me and I got attached to them very quickly. Yuri was really easy to relate to- I think everyone’s been in his position of not being listened to because of his age at some point in their lives. It made him feel even more realistic.

Learning to Swear in America was much more than what I was expecting, and it was honestly great. It’s a book that more people should read.

“Hey, Kyle. You know what I can hit?”
“Asteroid traveling at seventy-one kilometers per second. And if I can’t, you’re dead.”
And then he let Dovie lead him back up the stairs and into the parking lot.

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