When a giant asteroid is found on a collision course with California, 17 year old Russian Physicist, Yuri, is pulled from his home to join NASA on an impossible mission - save the world. Despite unwavering confidence in his own brilliant mind, Yuri is given only part of the puzzle to work on and faced with an insurmountable challenge in the form of his new colleagues, who don't seem to appreciate the input of the Russian boy wonder. With the fate of the world in his hands, Yuri meets Dovie, a normal teenage girl who shows him friendship, family and why Earth might be worth saving.
Katie Kennedy has written a very unique story that gives contemporary fiction an interesting scientific spin. She does a great job of making complex astronomy and physics accessible even to those with only a rudimentary understanding. The development of Yuri and Dovie's relationship is sweet and charming. It grows at a rate that feels natural to the plot and allows the reader to slow down and enjoy the characters. On the other side, the environment at NASA is tense and harried as the everyday sunset watch reminds us of what is at stake. As the situation becomes more dire, the tension increases and Yuri must decide not only how confident he is in his theories but also how far is is willing to go to prove himself.
Yuri is a really interesting character who lives in between worlds. As a physicist he is world renowned and on the fast track towards a Nobel Prize but as a teenager he is woefully inexperienced and struggles with the average teenage interactions. He is also dealing with the differences in American language and mannerisms as he tries to navigate both the adult and teenage world. Dovie is a free spirit, raised by hippies who is determined to introduce Yuri to a normal world in the limited time they might have together. She is a charming character, but a little unbelievable in her manic-pixie-girl-ness and her open, accepting, and unconcerned parents who played little role in the plot and did not stand in the way of their children's whims (however dangerous they might be).
Learning to Swear in America is a sweet story that is an especially great read for anyone interested in NASA, Asteroids, or the possible end of the world.