Love and Gelato is a book I wanted to read after reading the synopsis and thinking that sounds cute. Lina is a girl who loses her mom but honors her mothers dying wish that she go to Italy and spend the summer with her father, who she's never met. She doesn't want to be there and can't wait for the summer to be over- but her father turns out to not be so bad, and she's also given a journal that belonged to her mother. The journal of course has her mothers recollections of her time in Italy, including her falling in love with Howard. Lina can only assume her mother left her the journal so she could, in a sense, relive her mother's journey- and in the process find out about her own beginnings.
I liked Lina and thought she was terrific- she's realistic and funny and I could feel for her as she made sense of her mothers emerging story and her conflicted feelings towards Howard. He's a pretty good character too, there's a lot of ambiguity as to what he knows (turns out her mothers relationship was more complicated than it would seem) and I loved seeing the relationship between him and Lina develop. There's also Ren, the boy she meets while out running, and the two of them strike up an immediate friendship. I really liked their banter and the way they were when they were together- there's clearly something more than friendship going on there, but it's complicated by the fact that he has someone else and so, potentially, does Lina when she meets this guy who asks her out.
I want to stress though this is not your usual love triangle. Rather it's not a love triangle at all- or at least I didn't see it that way. It's more like that realistic feeling when you really like someone and really have a connection, but for whatever reason you're not together and there are other relationships involved. It's spoilery really to say more, so I'll just leave it by saying it all works. I loved the relationships in this book, they worked for me and it felt different than most YA relationships.
The other thing I need to mention is this book is about Italy, as well. Howard lives in Florence and the book is full of references to real places, piazzas and secret bakeries and gelato, and the author clearly knows the area. There's two things I liked about this book- the relationships and the setting. It was fun to experience Tuscany in a vicarious way and everything from details about the food, to little things about everyday life, just added to the ambience.
The only drawback for me here was a bit of a slow start. And that might just be me, because it doesn't really start slow per se- Lina's in Italy right off the bat- but it took me a few chapters to get into it. Once I did though I had a lot of fun. The other minor issue is the journal- it's probably not spoilery to say the journal holds lots of secrets, and in order to pace the story Lina reads it bits at a time. I think I would have read the whole thing and gotten the whole story, why drag it out? But it works because the story is worth the wait, and maybe it's realistic the way Lina felt like she could only take the story in pieces at a time. I don't know- regardless this was a very good read, and a feel good one at that.