Welch melts hearts with debut novel

Leslie Farwell, Staff Writer

As someone who typically hates YA romance I didn’t have high hopes heading into Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welchs. It is a YA romance novel with a hint of mystery written that follows Lina Emerson as she moves to Italy to live with a man who she’s never met per the request of her late mother. Once there she finds out that Howard lives at a cemetery and is in charge of running the museum. Soon after she arrives on one of her runs she meets Ren Ferra, a local who happens to be the same age as her and has connections to the US too. The two bond over these connections and her mother’s journal as they try to put together if X – the man who was part of her mom’s life while she lived there and Lina’s presumed father – is Howard.

The use of the found family trope helped a strong dimension to the book. Lina feels alone in Italy and at the beginning longs to go back to live with her friend in the US because it’s familiar. Towards the end of the book, she realizes that shared blood doesn’t necessarily make a family, but rather the people you love and care about. 

Another way that Welch differs from other popular authors is she does a fairly good job of making sure that the readers don’t have white room syndrome as they travel around the country. Specific sites and areas are described and connected to the plot, giving you a sense that it’s taking place in Italy for a reason – not just to sell books. For example, when they visited Piazza del Mercato Nuovo in Florence, I didn’t need to look it up to understand the area it was in. This familiarity connected fiction to reality.

For all the good things that this book brings to the table, a shortcoming is Lina’s character arc which was mediocre at best. There was a disconnect between the plot and the character, as things changed about her to advance the plot rather than the plot spurring Lina to experience character development. She didn’t want to originally read her mom’s journal, but once she did, the adventures that were connected to it all happened because she changed her mind, not the adversity she faced.

Love and Gelato is simple and cute, and kept me engaged throughout the whole time I read it. The plot was very predictable with the typical tropes, but it surprisingly didn’t feel repetitive or super basic either. I was able to connect to the characters and find myself in their shoes too which was great. If you’re looking for a book that will make you want gelato and keep you smiling, pick this one up!