Title: The Language of Cherries (review copy)
Author: Jen Marie Hawkins
Genre/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Speech Impediment, Art
Blurb from Goodreads
When Evie Perez is cut off from everything she loves and forced to move to Iceland for the summer, she takes her canvas and paintbrushes into the picturesque cherry orchard behind her guesthouse. She stains her lips with stolen cherries in the midnight sun and paints a boy she’s never met.
Oskar is startled to discover Evie in his family’s orchard, and even more surprised to see himself on her canvas. Too ashamed to reveal his stutter, he remains silent as Evie returns day after day to paint, spilling confessions she wouldn’t even tell her priest.
As Evie’s life back home unravels, Oskar wants to comfort her with words, but he knows he’s waited too long, so he uses music instead. But when it all comes to the surface, he knows that if Evie can’t forgive him for lying, he may never forgive himself for surviving.
The Language of Cherries is a very quiet YA contemporary with a strong mystical aspect. It is written in a lyrical fashion and takes its time to fully reveal the depth of emotion that it covers.
And by that I mean it’s a very slow burn read… A little too slow burn for me with that first 40% or so… But then the book took off. And I suddenly found I was incredibly invested in the storyline of these two young people.
The book follows Evie who moves to Iceland one summer with her father. Evie is distraught by this move as it has separated her from her grandmother who her father has now placed in a retirement care facility back in the USA.
Iceland is quiet. And made even more so by her father’s long days and absences due to his work. And in this quiet Evie’s upset festers and she rebels against her father…
But also during this summer she meets a boy in a cherry tree orchard. There’s something magical about both the orchard and the boy. The boy, Oskar, is silent…. Unbeknownst to Evie, Oskar has a strong stutter and is also grieving for his family. Evie thinks he can’t speak English and doesn’t understand her and believes that their communication occurs on a deeper level…
Slowly their lives become so intertwined that love blossoms through Evie’s magical paintings. Because after eating from the mystical aisling cherry tree, Evie somehow begins to paint Oskar’s life. She paints people that she has never seen before but are in fact his deceased family members…
As I said this is an incredibly slow burn read… Which admittedly irked me at times. Because I found myself getting quite frustrated by Oskar in particular and how he persisted with his lie that he couldn’t speak or understand English. The longer the charade carried on the more I distrusted him and rooted against him and Evie being together… Because she shared all of her thoughts and feelings with him because she thought he didn’t understand her. So for me there was a huge betrayal of trust that I don’t think was ever fully acknowledged.
I did however like the ending and how the author managed to show the connection that these two characters shared was indeed mutual and authentic.
Another thing I liked was how the book was structured using alternate perspectives. One chapter would follow Evie’s perspective and was written in a typical narrative fashion and then the next chapter would be from Oskar’s perspective in the form of his journal writings which were a form of verse poetry. It helped to create an environment for being empathetic towards both characters. In particular with Oskar and allowing the reader to understand his fears surrounding revealing his truth to Evie.
If you like slow burn romance novels with a dusting of magical realism then I would happily recommend this ya contemporary.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*