I picked this one up on a whim after being captivated by the pretty minimalist cover, and because I was in the mood for another light romance YA read. (So, romance YA is my go-to happy read. Sue me.) The premise of having our heroine, Lina, getting whisked away to a beautiful European country is very reminiscent of a favorite read of mine – a title that has to do a girl named Anna and French kiss – that is, a kiss from a French (well, half-French) guy, who happens to be her ridiculously charismatic classmate, Monsieur Etienne St. Clair.
But really, from having an American heroine whisked away to a gorgeous European city, an adorably charming halfie as love interest, and centering on the romantic trope of best friends-to-lovers, the similarities pretty much end there, and I think both YA novels possess their own unique spins.
In Love & Gelato, Lina is forced to spend the summer in Florence, Italy, as a means of fulfilling her promise on her mother’s death bed: getting to know her father. Her father who’s been MIA for the last sixteen years of her life. But her mother’s journal and the words “I made the wrong choice” ultimately uncovers a whole new world for her, bringing to light everything she never knew about her mother, her father, and even herself.
I love novels that showcase culture, as well as beautiful cities and countries. And Love & Gelato definitely delivered with its descriptions of Florence, Italy. The place is so vivid in my head, I might as well have truly visited! From the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio, and of course, to the Florence American Cemetery, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Florence with Lina and Ren. I’d love to see the gingerbread house myself, while feasting on a bucketful of stracciatella gelato.
Though I thought Lina and Ren are okay as our main pair, I really believe that Hadley and Howard, the heroine’s ‘parents’, are the true stars of this novel. Gosh, I was so much more invested in their story, rooting for them and wanting to understand exactly what happened all those years ago. We only ever get to know Hadley through her journal pages, and boy, were they really great narratives! She’s just got so much personality, something I really didn’t get a feel of when it came to Lina.
One thing I found offsetting about this title is the pace. Good Lord, the summer isn’t even up and these kids are throwing the words “I love you” in the air already. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be because they’re in a particularly romantic country, or because they’re young, and naive, and it’s the work of hormones, puppy love, and all that, but really come on. It’s too soon, and besides, despite all that bonding over trying to figure the mysteries of the journal out, I really felt that there wasn’t enough development in Lina and Ren’s relationship to equate to something that can be termed to as “falling in love”. Becoming best friends? Definitely. Developing a major crush? Oh yes. But love? Nope. Not yet, kids.
Overall, it’s a pretty okay read. It’s cute. It’s got awesome parent characters. It’s got good-looking halfies. While it may be as sweet as gelato, it’s nowhere near as addicting. It is still fun, though.
DOCTOR’S ORDERS: For the young adult literature fan eager for a tour around beautiful and magical Florence, Italy, while enjoying a cute teenage budding romance as well as discovering family secrets and truths; best read at your nearest gelateria to immediately address any sudden cravings that may develop
Watch out for: the undeniable itch to book the nearest flight to Italy, gelato cravings, and several “Kids These Days…*loud audible sigh* moments