Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

“You know, people come to Italy for all sorts of reasons, but when they stay, it’s for the same two things.” ~ Sonia in Love & Gelato

I am excited to share Love & Gelato (2016, Simon and Schuster) by Jenna Evans Welch with you today. I was really drawn to the cover art (which I believe is super important), and what was inside the cover did not disappoint.

Readers are introduced to sixteen-year-old Seattleite Lina, who has found herself at an American cemetery in Florence after her mom dies of pancreatic cancer. What she discovers in her mom’s journal is tough to read about but luckily she has help from her new best friend Ren.

Here are my thoughts on Love & Gelato:

I loved the story. There were times when I felt the dialogue was bit trite and the storyline a bit predictable, but I also let myself immerse myself in Lina’s journey to figure out why her mom wanted her to experience a place that was so important to her when she was a photography student: Italy. I also liked one of the messages that Welch weaves throughout the text: Sometimes who (and what) we need to love is right in front of us before we know it.

There are some great descriptions of Italian landmarks. I’ve never been to Italy (even though I’m a quarter Italian), but I loved Welch’s imagery-filled passages, especially the one about Ponte Vecchio.

Another part of the book that I found particularly powerful was the way in which Welch is able to the inner strength that comes from enduring tragedy. The setting of the cemetery allows Welch to portray how Lina struggles with her mother’s death and an especially powerful scene toward the end of the book that has particular importance to Lina’s mother showcases a certain beauty that can come from the loss of someone we love. The cemetery is able to convey a certain calmness in death.

Those of you who know me know I love art books, and this book falls into that category. Not only is the beauty of Italy emphasized throughout, but photography is also featured. I also like how Welch mixes prose and journal entries to tell her story.

Although Lina is sixteen, she has a certain innocence and purity that is refreshing. Less about Lina figuring out her mom’s story, Love & Gelato becomes more of a book about Lina figuring out her identity. There are certainly moments of teenage love, but Welch’s book is not about teenagers’ sexual relationships. So whereas the characters are in high school, their innocence makes this book more of a middle grades read in my eyes.

Let me know what you think of Love & Gelato in the comments below!

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