In a close toss-up of book picks, Love and Gelato lost by a hair for July’s book club reading (we wanted something a little lighter after the past heavy reads), but I had it on my TBR list for a while, so I checked it out of the library anyways. It sounded like a good summer read- a young adult book about love, gelato, and Italy. I could get behind that!
The main character, Carolina (Lina for short, pronounced Lee-nah), has just recently lost her mother from cancer, and is obviously struggling to handle the heartache. In the last year of her life, Lina’s mom started telling her about the time she spent in Italy and all the fun she had with a man named Howard- interesting news as Lina never knew her father. She’s not sure what all the stories have to do with her, but when her mother makes her promise to go to Italy and meet Howard after she dies, Lina can’t refuse the last wishes. Then, her Grandmother reveals that Howard is her biological dad.
After a few months of living with her friend, Addie, while she finished out her school year, Lina heads off to Italy find out more about her mother’s past. She’s determined not to stay for long, and doesn’t bother unpacking. Meeting Howard was awkward, and he seemed nice, but Lina noted that they look nothing alike, and he keeps trying to talk to her about her mom…something Lina just isn’t ready for. He understands and doesn’t push her, but his friend Sonia has something she needed to give to Lina- her mother’s journal from her stay in Italy.
It’s hard for Lina to read the journal, but slowly, she starts to learn about her mother’s Florentine experience and her own true identity. With the help of her friend Lorenzo, Lina experiences much of what Florence has to offer- including scenic historical vistas and buildings, scooter rides, and amazing gelato- as well as the truth about her father, and what love and family really mean.
Love and Gelato is a perfectly light, fluffy YA summer read, and it keeps the reader engaged and curious as to what Lina will find in Italy. However, I really expected more from this book, and I’m a little disappointed. I heard some internet hype saying this book had Eat Pray Love vibes, and the only connection I drew to confirm that was the setting and the adoration of the food- it just doesn’t get that deep in comparison. I had a hard time with the teen angst that Lina puts out, and there are times when I sympathized with her, but I felt like I was watching her jump to so many conclusions that it completely frustrated me. In the first 100 pages, I was eager to watch Lina find out the truth about Howard and her mother’s relationship, but about 150 pages in, I already figured out the truth about Lina’s biological father- yet it took Lina another 100 pages. And then she had to confirm it in a big dramatic race to Rome for another 50 pages. The book is almost 400 pages, and I spent half of it rolling my eyes and yelling at Lina in my head.
The tropes were pretty difficult to overcome as well. The summer in a romantic city leads to romance. Check. The lead character falls in love with the best friend. Check. There is a misunderstanding in the romance leading to heartache and a grand gesture to mend the relationship. Check. There are corny music quotes that lead to some “deep” reflection. Check (Closing Time by Semisonic). There wasn’t really anything that surprised me.
All this isn’t to say that it’s a bad book- it’s just predictable and fluffy. It’s a cute story in a dreamy setting with a sassy young female character, and the book is fast paced for it’s 400 pages. If that is what you are looking for, then I say it’s worth giving it a read. Otherwise, Love and Gelato sadly falls short of my expectations, leaving me too conflicted to bump up the enjoyment level of this read.