Please join me in congratulating Jen Marie Hawkins on the publication of her debut literary young adult novel, THE LANGUAGE OF CHERRIES. It’s ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS meets CHOCOLAT, with a dash of magical realism.
About the book:
“Jennifer Hawkins’s debut is a brilliant and unique take on the timeless YA themes of communication, empathy, and first love—and all of their attendant and perennial obstacles. Evie and Oskar’s relationship is spun in gorgeous, unexpected lyricism; even the setting (friendless and freezing and diametrically opposed to Evie’s Miami home) infuses the novel with a surreal and mythic quality: every detail weighs on her discovery of Oskar’s secret. THE LANGUAGE OF CHERRIES is impossible to forget; for me, it reads like the classic it deserves to be.” – Daniel Enhrenhaft, author of Ten Things To Do Before I Die (Delacorte, 2004) and the Edgar Award-winning Trust Falls (HarperCollins, 2002)
Sixteen-year-old artist Evie Perez is cut off from everything—her Abuela, her friends, and the comfort of the Miami heat—when her father’s job transfer drops her into Iceland for the summer. Angry with him for upending her life, and desperate for a connection to home, she takes her canvas and paintbrushes into the picturesque cherry orchard behind her guesthouse. As she stains her lips with stolen cherries in the midnight sun, her muse takes over, and she 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. He’s too ashamed to reveal his stutter, so he lets her believe he doesn’t speak English. When Evie returns day after day to paint, spilling confessions about her family she wouldn’t tell her priest, Oskar remains silent. At first, he’s content to be near the charming girl who looks at him without pity. But what began as an innocent escape from loneliness becomes a mutual passion when he realizes her paintings are messages from the orchard itself, evoking images of the family he lost—to an accident he believes was his fault.
As Evie’s life back home unravels and she struggles to forgive the people who’ve let her down, she leans on Oskar, grateful he listens, regardless of his understanding. Oskar wants to comfort her with words, but he knows he’s waited too long, so he uses music to communicate with her instead. When Evie finds his journal full of poetry written in English–evidence he understood her all summer–Oskar must confess the truth, even though he risks losing her trust and the last connection to his family. If Evie can’t forgive him for lying, he may never forgive himself for surviving.
Jennifer is an editor for Author Accelerator, a Pitch Wars Mentor, and a member of SCBWI and YARWA. She’s had short works published in literary magazines, including the Decameron Journal.