Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch – Simon Pulse – Published 12 April 2016
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 Lina 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 from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and ever herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Romance, gelato, and exploring Italy on the back of a scooter while trying to discover her mother’s past. Love and Gelato is part travel show, part romance and part crazy family drama.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. It’s not so much love/hate as a there-were-a-few-things-that-annoyed-me-but-overall-I-kind-of-liked-most-of-it-and-really-liked-some-aspects feeling. It’s confusing.
Lina’s mother has just died. In order to fulfil her mother’s last wish, Lina is off to Italy to meet the father she never knew. But things aren’t as simple as they first seem and when Lina is given her mother’s old journal she sets out to discover what really happen in Italy seventeen years ago.
Okay. Here’s what I liked.
– It’s set in Italy. Feel like visiting Italy this summer? Well read this book and save yourself a trip. The sights, the sounds, the tastes, slipping between the pages was like strolling down a little Italian street.
– The glorious descriptions of Italian food. Pizza. Pasta. Chocolate. Gelato. Little pastries with chocolate. I was dying of hunger most of the time while reading.
– Lina. She’s funny, loves to run and describes her relationship with food as ‘more-than-a-friend love’. Can we be friends? She has some fantastic lines. Lina is the heart of this book and it wouldn’t work without someone like Lina who is just weird enough to pull it off.
Here are the things I kind of liked/annoyed me.
– The writing. While at times this book was amusing, mainly because of Lina, at others it was just plain weird or otherwise boring as dry toast. I didn’t invest in the story, wasn’t really all that heartbroken over Lina’s loss and wasn’t sure what the main point of the story was. And all this because of the writing style. It’s odd, because there are some great lines and it wasn’t at all hard to imagine being in Italy right along with the characters, but at times it all felt so juvenile. Little ridiculous things like Lina describing her grief as missing her mom so much her fingernails hurt, or then Ren would say something like “I would destroy him” which seemed so out of character. They sounded liked little kids, little kids pretending to be teenagers. The inconsistency of their coolness flipping to unbelievable didn’t work for me. The last quarter of the book really picked up the pace and the interest, but prior to that I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot happening.
– Two stories in one. The main point of this book is Lina discovering why her mother asked for her to go to Italy and what happened when her mother lived there seventeen years ago. A large portion of the book includes sections from Lina’s mother’s journal. We read along with Lina as her mother first arrives in and explores Italy and then as she falls in love with the mysterious X. A lot of this is pretty serious stuff, heavy topics that contrast with the light-heartedness and youthful feeling of the rest of the book.
And here’s what really annoyed me.
– Lack of respect. The general disrespect shown to the soldiers who had given their lives in service to their country drove me nuts. When Lina first moves into the cemetery where her father lives she continually complains about how creepy it is. As the story progresses she makes other little comments about how lame people are to even care and really how much could there be to learn about the people who GAVE THEIR LIVES!!! The disrespect is never blatant, it’s more lack of respect, but I felt it was so inconsiderate, so lacking. And besides all this, she just lost her mom to cancer and out of everything dead people are creepy?!?
– And that brings me back to the writing, because while I enjoyed the lighthearted nature of the writing it didn’t suit the deeper issues that were being covered, like grief and reasons for Lina’s very existence. As a result I felt it was a little melodramatic and fell flat where it could have really dug deep and given readers both an enjoyable book that is heartfelt and moving, as well as lighthearted.
– And then there were little things like the whole Thomas thing. Not a huge deal and I won’t explain more in case of spoilers but I didn’t like the way it was handled or how he was represented or how he kind of switched character to suit the story’s needs.
Okay, rant over now. Final summary: it’s a fun book. While I thought there were a few issues they don’t detract from this book if you’re looking for a light read about young love, impulsive decisions and Italian ice-cream.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Italy, family, food, fathers, friendship, romance, grief, cancer.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Mature themes. Implied vague sexual references.
Published: 12 April 2016 by Simon Pulse.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 256 pages.