“The house loomed brightly in the distance, like a lighthouse in a sea of headstones. But it couldn’t be his house, right? We were probably just following some kind of Italian custom. Always drive newcomers through a cemetery. That way they get a fee for the local culture. Yeah, that must be it.”
-Jenna Evans Welch, Love & Gelato
After reading the first few pages of Love & Gelato, I worried I wouldn’t like it. The writing didn’t flow well together, and there was a plethora of almost cringe-worthy (and failed) attempts at humor and trite similes – the marks of a first novel. Thankfully, this awkward feeling didn’t last for long, as I was quickly able to connect with the narrator, Lina. Although she could be a bit oblivious at times, Lina was quite likable, with her funny thoughts and realistic dialogue. Lina was actually mature – unlike many of the characters that seem to dominate young adult literature – and handled her mother’s passing and being shipped away to live with a father she barely knew like any reasonable sixteen-year-old would.
The setting, Italy, was arguably the best part of the novel. Welch captures the magic of the city of Florence with breathtakingly scenic details that make the story alive. Also, the mystery surrounding the relationship between Lina’s mother and father is suspenseful and engaging as Lina uncovers secrets regarding her heritage through her mother’s journal entries.
I finished reading Love & Gelato a little over a week ago, and I have already started forgetting many of the names of the characters – the story simply didn’t resonate with me. However, although the novel wasn’t too thought-provoking or “deep,” it is far from being flimsy or insubstantial, making it a great choice for a long day at the beach. Overall, Love & Gelato is a sweet summer read that perfectly balances a light, breezy, and fun story with the moving idea of the importance of family.