For the past three years, I have re-read Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. For me, summer is the time for reads that feel good. I want to fall into a story– be able to head to the beach and read it in one sitting. Every summer, I have a certain list of books that I re-read without fail. These include pretty much anything by Morgan Matson, a few books I reviewed on the blog last summer (here’s one of them). My old summer favorites reflect the sunshine through vivid characters, sweet moments, and overall just happy stories.This past weekend at the beach for Memorial Day, I re-devoured this one. The (adorable) front cover smells like the sunscreen I wear and the pages always smell like the beach. If you were to shake out my copy, sand would fall out from between the pages. And this is just how I like it. This book is not an absurdly deep or challenging read, but it will make your heart happy. Lina, Ren, Howard, Sonia, and Lina’s mother’s voices shine from the pages and the story is just precious. Let’s get into my review!
Love & Gelato: Goodreads Description
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Love & Gelato: My Summary
After the devastating loss of her mother, Lina moves to Tuscany to meet the father she had never known. She really doesn’t want to be there, especially not when everything there has been seen by her mom. As Lina adjusts to life in Italy and makes friends, she wonders why her mom would have sent her there in the first place with no notice that tall, sweet Howard was her father. Struggling with the weirdness of living in a cemetery and trying to grasp a life that is not her own, when Lina is given one of her mother’s old journals, sent to the cemetery before she died, Lina goes on an adventure to discover the truth and figure out what’s really going on. She experiences Italy the way her mother did and finds out who she is along the way.
Lina is flawed. She is stubborn, apprehensive, and overall a normal teenage girl. Her personality isn’t perfect, and that’s what makes her so real. One of my favorite things in literature is when the supporting characters are given as much life and zeal as the main characters, and in Love and Gelato, I could clearly see, hear, and feel every character. The friendship dynamics in the book were so authentic and fun, and the relationship between Howard and Lina in the long run was possibly my favorite moment in the book.
If you know me, you know how much of a dreamer I am. Books with vivid settings and gorgeous descriptions are what make me the happiest, and this book covers that entirely. Lina’s own experiences coincide with the wonder and authenticity of her mother’s vivid journaled descriptions of Italy. From secret bakeries to the hilarious description of Lina’s first time eating gelato, I think this book checks all of the boxes. Whenever I read this one I find myself daydreaming about Italy for days afterward and secretly wishing to be taking writing courses there.
Lina loses her mother to cancer in the beginning of the story. Welch captures the grief Lina experiences in such a raw, authentic way. She misses her mother, and certain moments that she didn’t expect to matter bring waves of grief. More importantly, though, Love & Gelato encapsulates the way that joy and grief can coincide. Often in literature, we see characters overwhelmed with guilt at feeling the smallest bit of happiness after a loss. I think that Lina manages to honor her mother by keeping her promise, searching for the truth, and trying to find joy in Italy even if she thinks it is impossible. There are moments in the book that had me laughing out loud (Lina once describes her hair as “a hedgehog given Red Bull”) and entire sections where I couldn’t stop smiling. Everything is so vivid. While this book is a little predictable at times, I don’t think that discounts how well it is written and how powerful the precious story is.
Final Thoughts on Love & Gelato
This story is sweet. It is warm, heartfelt, and happy. If you’re looking for a grand, sweeping, impressively complex novel, it is not this one. At times, you want to shake the characters and say “The answer is right in front of you,” but overall the book will sweep you into Italy and make you fall in love with the scenery. I never fail to be in a good mood after reading this novel. If you love YA, cute storylines, vivid scenery, Italy, and fun, warm summer reads, definitely pick up this one.
What are your go-to fluffy summer reads?
Thank you for reading!