Published by Simon Pulse on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 400 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Love & Gelato is one of those books that always caught my eye during my trips to Barnes & Noble because the cover was so pretty in its simplicity. Yet I never pulled the trigger on purchasing it because the cover also made it seem like it might be too young for me (I have a lot of thoughts regarding the large age range YA covers, and don’t usually enjoy books geared toward the younger end of the spectrum). However, I was looking for a book to borrow on my phone via Overdrive (I always like to have a book on my phone for on the go reading) and decided summer time was the perfect time to give Love & Gelato a try. I’m so glad that I did, because the story ended up being the perfect lightweight travel read that gave me seriously wanderlust for Florence.
Like Lina at the beginning of the story, I have never been to Italy (but it’s the number one must visit destination on my travel list) so I was captivated by the author’s ability to paint such a vivid setting that really made me feel as though I was IN Florence despite not having a reference point. I was captivated by the historical locations, the character’s homes, and the memorial cemetery in the countryside that Lina calls home over the summer. Also, anytime there was a description of food I was 1000% thrilled because Italian food is quite possibly my favorite type of food (I eat pasta more than you’d care to know). Juxtaposed against the lightweight, summery feel of the setting is a deeper mystery that takes up most of the novel’s focus. Lina’s deceased mother has left her a journal that details her own time in Florence when she was a young adult and how it changed the course of her life forever. As Lina brings herself to read her mother’s words bit by bit, it guides her exploration through Florence and her understanding of her own life and history.
I loved getting to know Lina’s mother through her journals. Though I anticipated all of the twists, I still enjoyed reading about her story at photography school and comparing her Italian experience to Lina’s, and watching Lina piece it all together. While this is by no means a heavy book, I appreciated that Lina’s grief is talked about often and is something that she constantly deals with throughout the course of the book. This novel also has some really great adult, parental figures (which is great to see since approximately 98% of parents in YA are either completely absent or totally overbearing/annoying) and it was touching to see Lina develop a relationship with Howard despite losing her mother (and Howard is totally hilarious in a Dad-joke sort of way).
Now, considering the word “love” is in the title of the novel, it’s no surprise that there’s a romance waiting for Lina in Italy. I was mostly OK with it (it honestly felt overshadowed by the mystery in her mother’s journal, thankfully, and that journal had WAY more relationship drama than Lina did) but there was a fair share of ~teenage romantic angst~ that I could have lived without. There was also this sort of halfhearted love triangle plot with a British dude who was clearly there just to create conflict with the obvious end game ship, but I mostly ignored that in favor of all of the elements about this book that I did love. Although, for someone who lives in SEATTLE this day in age I find it realllllly hard to believe that Lina doesn’t know what gelato is. I mean seriously.
Overall: Reading Love & Gelato was a fun and sweet experience that hooked me in by its cover and setting but kept me for the mystery and family dynamics. I found myself always eager to return to my phone or Kindle to get a few more glimpses of Florence, and it really had me feeling like I was out of my mundane everyday routine and jogging along the rolling Italian hills right along with Lina. If the author keeps writing books set in Italy I will 100% keep picking them up.