Love & Gelato

25756328by Jenna Evans Welch
YA Contemporary
3 of 5 stars
Debut novel: May 3, 2016

The cute cover art caught my eye and I added this to my list because it sounded like a fun rom-com of a book. I was right! Nothing out of the ordinary with this story—the twists are pretty clear from the get-go and the characters are simply drawn—but the descriptions are good and it leaves you with the fuzzy feeling I’ve come to associate with a Julia Roberts / Audrey Hepburn / star-of-the-moment romantic comedy.

When pancreatic cancer takes Lina’s mother and destroys her world, not even a summer in Italy sounds enjoyable—especially since it means staying with the father she found out about just weeks ago. Howard lives in a cemetery and hopes she’ll decide to stay with him permanently, but Lina barely agreed to a few months as a trial period. It’s not long before she meets Howard’s coworker Sonia, who gives Lina one of her mother’s old journals about the time she spent in Italy as a college student. “I made the wrong choice” is scrawled on the first page, and Lina is determined to learn what her mother meant, even if reading about her old memories is painful. Soon Lina and nearby neighbor Ren are drawn into a quest to find out who Lina’s mother loved before Howard and what made her leave Italy behind forever.

As I said, the plot is a bit contrived and obvious at times, but it moves along at a good pace and Lina and Ren’s friendship is charming and believable. Lina is experiencing a lot of feelings—she’s grieving for her mother; she’s trying to be responsible by getting to know her newfound father, but that isn’t easy; she’s swept away by the romantic atmosphere of Florence (in more than one sense) which resurrects her mother’s past and promises a bright future if she can be brave enough to go after it—I really enjoyed her emotional journey. It’s easy to let a character succumb to grief so much that the reader drowns, or to box up those reactions so that the character ends up coming across as stiff or insensitive. Grief is a strange beast; it can sink down so far you think you’ve recovered, and then it devours you in a heartbeat because you saw something that reminds you of what you lost. Welch allows Lina to ride all the waves of her emotions and it made Lina feel so real to me!

Florence is a grand backdrop for this story and the descriptions are done well. Italy adds to the story instead of bogging it down. The author spent time there and it’s so clear that much of this is drawn from personal experience, which is always good. What I liked is that the descriptions are broad strokes—we don’t spend pages describing a building or a piece of art, and we don’t spend a chapter on Florence’s (extensive) history. We have just enough to get a sense of the surroundings and the mood of the street and then the focus is back to Lina.

This is a good summer read that feels like a small vacation. Be warned: gelato cravings ahead!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Love & Gelato is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – Lara Jean is second of three sisters and she recently found out all of her secret past love letters made it into the hands of the boys she wrote about. Now she’s trying to have a real relationship with Peter and that brings its own challenges. Lara Jean longs for advice from her mother and older sister as she tries to navigate the cruel rumors and pressures of high school and love, but her mother is dead and Margot is absent. This is a cute high school love story that is better than the first book (and really you don’t have to read the first book). See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Twin sisters Cath and Wren are off to their first year of college. Cath is blind-sided when Wren declares they aren’t rooming together and it’s time to be more independent. Cath’s social anxiety already has her living an isolated life with only her sister and bi-polar father for company. (Oh, and her thousands of fanfiction followers). When Wren reveals she is over Simon Snow fanfic and is reconnecting with their estranged mother, Cath isn’t sure how to keep her sister close without stirring up the painful past. Also, a cute boy is determined to date Cath if she could summon the courage to open her dorm-room door and talk to him. This is a moving coming-of-age story with a charming sense of humor.
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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: P.S. I Still Love You | To Live a Thousand Lives
  2. Trackback: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit | To Live a Thousand Lives

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