For the longest time, I left Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch on my to-read shelf like an ice cream cone in the summer sun. It was too frilly, I reasoned. Too generic. Next to the plethora of suspenseful dystopian and fantasy novels I had yet to read, Love & Gelato didn’t seem like it would be worth my time. But that’s when my friends began to pelt me with book recommendations, a primary one being this book. I was skeptical, but curious. Would it really live up to the hype? In the end, I decided to borrow the novel from my local library just for laughs. Boy, oh boy. Maybe my pediatrician wasn’t ever going to recommend I eat gelato left and right, but this book was exactly what the doctor ordered.
In Love & Gelato, the stage is set in Tuscany, Italy, where seventeen-year-old Lina Emerson is on a visit. Under different circumstances, Lina would immediately fall in love with Italy’s shimmering waters, quaint villages, and captivating artwork, but she’s only there to satisfy her mother’s dying wish for her to meet her long-lost father, Howard. Even though Howard tries to make Lina feel comfortable, Lina simply can’t accept him back into her life so quickly. After all, if he really cared, he would have contacted her earlier. Does he really think he can enter the picture sixteen years later without any hard feelings?
Then Lina is given the journal her mother kept when she lived in Italy years ago. Suddenly, Lina is reading about bakeries, artwork, and secrets that she’s never known about before. In fact, the diary starts out with the cryptic message, I made the wrong choice, which leaves Lina to ponder: What was this bad decision? Curious for answers, Lina decides to go from city to city with her charming new friend, Ren. At the same time, she deals with family drama and troubles of the heart. The highlights of Italy may be love and gelato, but there is much more to this country than meets the eye.
If nothing else, Love & Gelato is incredibly delightful to read! It has just the right balance of character development, suspense, romance, and humor. Lina is a sarcastic, food-loving narrator who sometimes makes rash decisions, but is really just trying to navigate the volatile waters of adolescence: friendship, family, and relationships, just to name a few. The descriptions of Italy are a cinematic experience—the view of Florence is detailed as “a sea of red rooftops under an unblemished blue sky and soft green hills circling everything like a big, happy hug.” I mean, come on; if that doesn’t give you warm fuzzies, I don’t know what will.
And don’t even get me started on the food. After this, I’m getting the milk and cream out to make my very own stracciatella gelato!
The plot only complements the adorable writing style. The premise of Love & Gelato is very unique and interesting, and it’s highly enjoyable getting to read Lina’s mother’s diary entries and to see Italy from a different point of view. Though the story is mostly predictable, there are some minor twists I didn’t expect. This is one of those books that I don’t mind being predictable, just because it is so fun to read.
After reading so many hard-hitting books that often left me feeling pessimistic and despondent, Jenna Evans Welch’s bestselling debut novel gave me the truckful of sweetness I needed, all served with a tangy side of mystery. If you are looking for your next lighthearted summer read, your search is over—Love & Gelato will not disappoint!
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!