I’ve noticed this book every time I’ve browsed through the Young Adult Fiction section at Target and finally decided to give it a shot. Being a bit of a world explorer, I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age-in-Europe tales and was excited to get a taste of Italy.
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
“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.
As said before, I’ve always enjoyed stories with characters who travel in Europe and find themselves. Even if the stories aren’t great, the thrill of adventure always gets me. I loved that this book was set in Italy–a place on my list that I haven’t yet been to. I really enjoyed walking the streets of Florence with Lina.
I really liked the premise of this book. In many ways, it wasn’t that original–Stephanie Perkins has already told the story of a girl sent unwillingly abroad only to find love. (Anna and the French Kiss). But Evans Welch’s version had its quirks–Lina finds herself living not in a cute Italian flat, but in a house in the middle of a World War II cemetery. The plot was driven mostly by her mom’s journal, which I liked. In a way, the story was just as much about her mother as about her.
That being said, there were lots of elements that had me rolling my eyes. I’ve been a long-time YA fan, but the basic plot points are starting to wear on me. As she read her mom’s journal, the things she learns causes her to do certain things. She’d plunge into all these assumptions about characters and situations and act on them, leading to some touchy situations. All I wanted to do was give her a good shake, she was so annoying. “Stop rushing into things and just READ YOUR MOM’S JOURNAL” I wanted to shout at her.
Then, there’s the whole sixteen-year-old-finds-true-love-in-a-week thing that continually happens in these kinds of books. This drives me CRAZY. Maybe it’s a sign of me getting older–I’m not longer a teenager and now understand that there is so much you think you know at that age that you really don’t. This makes it really hard for me to relate with protagonists like Lina–I see them as naive girls who don’t know what they’re talking about. Plus, falling in love in a week just doesn’t make sense to me.
I’m pretty critical, but ultimately, this was a fun read. It’s always fun to get back to Europe, even if it’s only in the pages of a book.
I recommend this book to those looking for a light, fluffy, romantic summer read.