Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Love & Gelato is not a typical teenage love story. Sixteen-year-old Carolina (Lina) has experienced a lot of ups and downs in her life. But there is one event that she characterizes as a defining moment—losing her mother, Hadley, to cancer. A few months before her Hadley’s death, her mother starts telling Lina stories about her friend Howard and some of their adventures in Italy. Her mother makes Lina promise to visit Italy and give it a chance. Now, Lina is in a new country with people she barely knows. Lina tries to connect with her mother through her mother’s journal and quickly learns that her mother had a lot of secrets when she was younger. Through her time in Italy, Lina learns the true meaning of love and friendship and what it means to be a family.
Lina is quiet but charismatic. She is hesitant about going to Italy, living in a strange place, and meeting new people. She’s so determined to get back home, that she doesn’t even unpack her suitcase. She constantly complains to her best friend, Addie, about wanting to come home or how weird it is to live in a cemetery. But the longer she spends in Italy and the more she learns about her mother, Lina comes face to face with some difficult decisions that will change her life.
Howard is the caretaker for a WWII American soldier memorial right outside of Florence, Italy. He is thrilled at the prospect of Lina coming to visit him because he was in love with her mother. He tries hard to make Lina like him but is also protective of her.
Lorenzo (Ren) is a quirky half-Italian, half-American teenager living in Florence. Ren quickly becomes Lina’s best friend in Italy and accompanies her on her outings to elarn more about Hadley and her past. Ren goes without question and wants to help Lina solve the mystery of her mother. Ren makes Lina laugh and feel like she’s one of the gang of international students.
Starting out, we don’t know much about Hadley. But once Lina gets her mother’s journal, we start to learn about Hadley’s past. Hadley had always been carefree and upbeat with Lina. Hadley had a passion for photography and art and explored that passion during her time in Italy. Hadley fell in love and got her heart broken by Lina’s father and she kept that secret from her daughter for sixteen years.
Overall, I adored this book. I may have a slight bias because I LOVE Italy and Florence is probably my favorite city in the world. But, I love that Lina gets a chance to explore Italy both on her own and through her mother’s eyes. Lina gets to learn a new country, meet new friends and start new relationships, try new things, and simultaneously grow closer with her mother.