Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Em Richardson
Reviewed by Em Richardson
Summary: A light-hearted, summery tale of love, loss and self-discovery set against the beautiful backdrop of Florence. Perfect for anyone who loves either romance novels or exploring new locations via books.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1406372328

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I picked up Love & Gelato in hope of a light-hearted summery read, with an added draw being that the action takes place in Italy, a favourite country of mine, and that's exactly what I got. The novel tells the story of Lina, a teenager who fulfils her dying Mother's wish by spending a summer in Tuscany, conveniently staying just outside of Florence, getting to know the father she has never known. She is aided on this quest by a journal her Mom left her, documenting the year she met Lina's father whilst studying photography in Florence.

Let me start by taking a moment to admire this book's setting - if you're someone who loves to travel through books, then I can highly recommend this one. We are able to discover a new country alongside Lina, sharing in her wonder as she gets to know somewhere thoroughly different from Seattle, her home back in America. Florence and its numerous examples of famous art and architecture also add weight to the idea that, as a young art student, Lina's Mom fell in love with Italy.

One of Welch's best ideas was definitely including Lina's Mom's journal, giving Lina a framework to use when finding places she might like to visit around Florence. The journal was vital for the plot, too, guiding Lina on a journey of self-discovery as she tried to discover how and when her parents had fallen in love, leading to moments of extreme happiness as well as crushing disappointments. I may have guessed the novel's major plot twist long before it appeared, but that still didn't detract from the pleasure I took in joining Lina on her quest to find out the truth. As for Howard, the man Lina is staying with and who her Grandmother informed her is her father, it's heart-warming to see how the relationship between the pair develops, as he too discovers new things about Lina's Mom via the seventeen year old journal.

The subplot, as indicated by the title, revolves around Lina's love life, centring on two boys she meets over her summer. On the one hand, there is Lorenzo, who makes bad jokes, teases Lina constantly, and is dating a Swedish supermodel lookalike, yet is inexplicably cute. On the other, there is Thomas - tall, handsome, British and clearly very interested in getting to know Lina. Once again, I guessed who she'd end up with almost straight away, but that didn't distract from the heart-warming ending, and the scenes where Lorenzo tries to help her visit the places mentioned in the journal are very sweet.

My one complaint about the novel would be Lina's friend Addie, who is back home in Seattle. She appears sporadically throughout the book, as Lina updates her on both the search to uncover the truth about her parents' relationship, and her own love-life. Unfortunately, the dialogue between the pair often felt forced, and Addie's determination to overreact to anything and everything made her seem more like a parody of a teenager than a realistic confidant for Lina. Luckily, the fact she doesn't feature in the novel much prevented her from becoming too overbearing or irritating.

Overall, this is a quick, light-hearted summer read. Its subject matter might seem somewhat deep and depressing at first, and there are some very adult themes surrounding grief and loss discussed throughout, but the majority of the novel is still good fun. If nothing else, the description of the beautiful Italian weather, scenery and food will be a definite distraction from a rainy day here in the UK. Love & Gelato is an entertaining read for young adults and adults alike, recommended for anyone who loves either sweet romance stories or novels about interesting new places.

For further reading, I think anyone who enjoyed this book might like Looking For Alaska by John Green, another story of teenagers on a quest to uncover the truth.

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