Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Genre: YA Contemporary
Page Count: 386
“So… Italian gelato. Take the deliciousness of a regular ice-cream cone, times it by a million, then sprinkle it with crushed-up unicorn horns.”
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 a cute and quick contemporary read that fills you with urges to go to Italy, and to get some gelato. Seriously, I’ve never had gelato and I’m considering going to get some in 35 degree (Fahrenheit) weather. The story that this book tells feels unique, and yet also has that “cookie cutter contemporary” style, at least to me.
Lina, our main character, is moving to Italy after her mother dies from cancer to live with her father that she didn’t even know about. At first, she’s a mopey and annoying teenager (although it’s understandable considering she just lost a parent), then she’s given a journal that her mother kept when she was in Italy. The story then alternates through Lina’s journey and her mother’s via the journal. This is where the unique aspect vs. the same old aspects come in.
Living a story through a journal felt quite unique, and I was much more invested in Hadley’s (Lina’s mom) story than Lina’s story. There is a mystery aspect to the story, because it turns out that Hadley didn’t tell Lina much about her life, so the reader is trying to discover her past along with Lina. Although, I guessed the big reveal of the book near the very beginning, and I ended up getting quite frustrated with Lina about how blind she was acting.
On the other hand, Lina’s story didn’t feel all that exciting. If you exclude the portions about her going to see art sights that her mother visited (I consider those part of Hadley’s story), it boils down to a love story full of miscommunications. I definitely like Ren as a character, but Lina grew annoying quickly. In a general sense, I dislike clueless characters, and Lina is the epitome of one. She’s clueless when it comes to Ren’s obvious feelings, to her own feelings, and about her father. It simply dragged out certain parts of the story.
However, what I did really enjoy about the book is the family relationships. Lina has never met her father, Howard. Now, all the sudden she’s living with him and doesn’t know how to function around him. The bond that Lina and Howard built was really cute, and I enjoyed seeing it grow and develop.
This last thing might be a me thing, but what is up with contemporary novels having one or two super weird quirk(s)? Like the collection of black Santas in Paper Towns by John Green. In Love & Gelato, Howard takes care of a cemetery, and that’s where Lina has to live. This one doesn’t bother me because it’s plausible. However, someone living in an ACTUAL gingerbread house is just too weird for me. This would never happen, and contemporaries need to get over themselves.
Overall, Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is cute and fun, but it doesn’t extend much past that for me. However, if you’re looking for a contemporary to give you that sense of wanderlust and deals with family bonds, this is definitely a solid pick!