YA Review: LOVE & GELATO by Jenna Evans Welch

dsc06233Happy New Year! I’m a few weeks late, but I have excellent excuses–er, reasons. I was across the country for the first week of the year, doing things like attending my first Defense Against the Dark Arts class. (And, no, I’m not too old for Hogwarts.) Then I spent two weeks furiously revising so I could send my manuscript off to readers. Now that the MS is out of my hands, I can relax, and the timing is perfect, because last week I read a delightful YA book that I have to share with you. (Side note: on the adult side, if you’re a Meg Cabot fan, I also highly recommend THE BOY IS BACK. Could not stop laughing as I read that one–in a single evening!) But back to the YA … it’s another of my Scholastic Warehouse Sale purchases, LOVE & GELATO by Jenna Evans Welch. I’d been hearing a lot about this book, and from the first few lines, I was sucked in. Here’s the description.

img_3322Lina 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.

Here are the five things I loved most about the book.

1. The romance – It’s right there in the title: LOVE. So obviously the romance has to be amazing, and it is. What I like about it is how there’s really more than one romance going on in this story–Lina’s and her mom’s. And actually, there’s an interesting parallel, but I won’t spoil it.

2. The journal – I both loved and hated Lina’s mom’s journal. I hated it because she took SO LONG to read the entries. Obviously if she’d read the thing all at once the story would have been over and she’d have had no mystery to solve, but it drove me crazy. At the same time, I believed her reticence to read her mother’s words and her drive to try and discover what had happened in her mother’s past on her own. Thus the love/hate relationship with the journal.

3. Howard – Lina comes to Italy expecting to hate Howard for not being involved in her life, but he’s nothing like she imagined. I loved watching their relationship develop and how it showed the growth of a family.

4. The dialogue – I’m a sucker for snappy dialogue, and this book has it in spades. It’s great between all of the characters, but here’s a snippet between Lina and Ren. They’ve just met, and after a conversation about how Lina always wins at games, Ren challenges her to a race to his house to meet his mom.

He stopped in front of a set of curlicue gates and I help him push them open with a loud creak.

“You weren’t kidding. Your house is close to the cemetery,” I said.

“I know. I always thought it was weird that I live so close to a cemetery. And then I met someone who lives in a cemetery.”

“I couldn’t let you beat me. It’s my competitive nature.”

5. The setting – There’s the fact that this book is set in Italy, which of course makes me want to go there, but it’s made even more interesting by plopping Lina into a cemetery–much too soon after the death of her mother. See, Howard’s the caretaker for the Florence American Cemetery, a memorial for World War II veterans. As a result, instead of drawing Lina in with its gorgeousness like you’d expect, it’s a source of conflict. It’s very well done.

Maybe I would have mentioned the gelato as one of my favorite things if I could’ve tasted it, but I did find the flavor Lina was dying over in the book at my local grocery store. I’m sure it will be a pale substitute to what I’d get in Italy, but I’m still anxious to try it.

Have you read LOVE & GELATO? What did you think?

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