He scooted in to me until our bodies touched from shoulder to hip. It was the exact sensation of licking a nine-volt battery. (127)
My goodness, this was an adorable book. 4.5 stars. Love & Gelato details Lina’s summer after she moves to Florence, Italy to live with her previously unknown father, Howard, at a WWII memorial site…all to fulfill her mother’s dying request. Lina discovers more than she expected as she explores, following in the decades-old footsteps she discovers in her mother’s journal.
Lina’s inner monologue was a literal window to her soul, and I was constantly either crushingly sad or snort-laughing. She experiences grief so honestly, while still managing to hold onto her personality and sense of humor. It’s sometimes a struggle to find three-dimensional characters in chick lit/light romance novels, but Lina came across as a funny and genuine person coping with a horrible situation. While this stays very much YA-appropriate in its characters’ ages and experiences, I was thoroughly impressed by the genuine and authentic feelings of grief woven throughout this book.
Losing my mom had somehow made social events feel like a quick jaunt up Mt. Everest. Also, I was doing an alarming amount of self-talk these days. (78)
The Italian setting was effortlessly built, shown both as Lina experienced the world and through her mother’s journal entries. I thought this format of past and present worked well both for the setting as well as for the plot, revealing bits and pieces of the mystery swirling throughout this book (though good god it was frustrating when Lina would stop reading journal entries and I just needed. to. know. more.). The pacing was addictive, and each time I had to pause for Real Life™, I was dying to pick this back up.
The love story is an obvious trope and the reader can guess from the beginning how it will play out, but I adored this particular relationship and its development (a bit of a generic assessment, I know, but everything I want to add gives too much away!). I also loved how Lina’s father worked out. Howard sounds like the sweetest, most fantastic man and Matteo is human garbage. This storyline’s ending was everything I wanted. It wasn’t glossed over or the sparkle & rainbows I expected going in, but rough-edged and accurately handled how reality isn’t always picture perfect.
I went into this expecting a typical chick lit novel, but I was happily surprised by the strength of the emotional component in this book. For an authentic depiction of the emotional turmoil following a family death and how life will inevitably go on (even though your standard person doesn’t up and moving to Florence to live with a long lost father), Love & Gelato is a bit of sunshine and hope. I’m so happy I picked this up.