I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
So first of all, thanks to Jessica for picking out this book for the last book swap. Secondly, I was out at lunch with my mom and I had this book on the table. The woman who took our plates started up a conversation about it after seeing Gelato, because she loves Italy, so she might read this now!
I truly enjoyed this book, about overcoming grief, finding meaning in life, and love (and gelato, of course), and all this happens in Italy. When sixteen year old Carolina - pronounced Caroleena, although she goes by Lina - loses her mother, she's sent to Italy to spend time with a man named Howard. This is a man who she assumes is her father, especially since her grandmother tells her so. Howard says so. Except why did Lina's mother only start talking about him only when she found out she was dying?
And why did her mother send her a journal about her story in Italy? See, Hadley, Lina's mother met Howard in Italy when they were both graduate students. And yet the journal implies that there is much more to the story than Hadley told Lina.
Meanwhile, Lina is torn between two foreign high school students: Thomas, who has model-good looks and makes his interest in Lina known immediately, and Ren who makes Lina feel comfortable, even when talking about her mother, and when no one else has. (No one except Addie, Lina's best friend, who is unreachable at times due to being back in Seattle.) Ren has a girlfriend, and is weird, but as Lina spends more time with him, she also finds herself being drawn to him more and more.
One of the things I like about this novel is how it treats Lina's grief. It doesn't sideline it, or act if finding a man, or a father figure, will fix everything. It never gets so overwhelming that it turns this whole thing into a depressing read, but it does treat the grief realistically, rather than a reason for insta-love.
It was warm, fun, funny, and also touching. I cried a little, but I also laughed a lot, and was cheering Lina on as she found out more about her mother and where she came from, as well as where she was going. I'll be looking for the second book when it comes out next May, I believe.