Yuri is really, really good at physics. He’s so good that when NASA figures out that an asteroid will hit Earth in less than a month, they convince the Russians to let Yuri come to the U.S. to help stop it. Yuri’s life has always been about school, science, and eventually getting a Nobel Prize. “Normal” things – girls, relationships, politics—are a bit beyond him.
His story becomes about more than a complicated math problem when he meets Dovie. She and her family provide him an escape from the situation at the lab, and suddenly he’s doing things he’s never done before – going to prom, sneaking out of his room, talking back to authority figures, and learning to swear in English. It’s not just about saving the world from an asteroid now. Yuri realizes that the life he wants to live has fundamentally changed and yet not changed at all.
Yuri’s internal dialogue, his humor, the reality of the daily petty stuff he has to deal with, and his confidence and insecurity carry the story along. (I know…but it works. He knows he’s often the smartest guy in the room, but at the same time, he’s enough of a perfectionist to be terrified of ever being wrong about anything at all.) There are a lot of balls in the air here – the asteroid, his cultural confusion, his feelings for Dovie, his past as a prodigy, the Russians—but they’re juggled effectively, and in the end, he gets the life he isn’t sure he wants but is happy with it. And he maybe saves the world, too.
Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy