I know this was supposed to be a cute YA, and for the most part it was.
This is a story about a girl, Lina, who is sent to Italy the summer after her mother unexpectedly dies of pancreatic cancer. Once her mother, Hadley, is diagnosed, she begins talking about Italy and her old friend, Howard, who she wants Lina to go and live with for a while. (Also – Lina doesn’t know who her father is and her mother never tells her. Once Hadley dies, Lina’s grandmother (Hadley’s mom) tells Lina that her father is Howard. Gasp.)
Lina is understandably hesitant to go to Italy and stay with Howard, who may be her father but is also a total stranger to her. Nevertheless, she goes anyways, per her mother’s dying wish and ends up really liking Howard which is not surprising because Howard is kind of the best.
Once Lina shows up in Italy, she is given one of her mom’s old journals – the journal she wrote in during her time in Florence. Lina ends up playing Harriet-the-Spy and goes to her mom’s old hang outs and tracks down an old boyfriend and discovers some secrets. The journal was super interesting and I loved that Lina was able to discover an unfiltered part of her mom’s life.
And then, the journal throws a big twist. But don’t worry guys, it only lasts about half a chapter and then all the characters are like “Whatever! It’s fine! Let’s ignore it!” You know, I really, really hate when authors throw in unnecessary plot twists and this one was so unnecessary. On top of that, if you want to throw in a curveball, you’d better commit to it because it’s just plain annoying to do that and then pretend it didn’t happen. There are probably plenty of people who felt this added to the storyline, but I don’t agree.
Lina’s love story is predictable, she’s a little annoying when she finds out she’s half-Italian because suddenly she can roll her Rs and curl her hair to look Italian, and it’s a little weird when 16-year-old Lina asks Howard to buy her “The Dress” to make Ren fall in love with her (Howard is like “money is no option! gotta get THE dress! no curfew tonight!”.
It’s too bad the story didn’t contain more setting details, because I would have loved to be transported back to Italy for a couple of days. If you’re looking for a cute YA novel set abroad, I’d suggest Anna and the French Kiss.