Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for LETTERS TO THE LOST and LOVE & GELATO
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell, Call It What You Want
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.
Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. What really hooked me from the beginning is its exploration of loss and the grieving process through the use of anonymous letters. Juliet and Declan have both lost loved ones and are struggling to move through their grief and both feel alone because no one seems to understand what they’re going through. Juliet tries to work through her grief by writing letters to her dead mom and leaving them in the cemetery where Declan works. When Declan sees and reads one of the letters, he relates to the sense of loss in the letter so much that he replies to it. Declan and Juliet begin writing to each other anonymously and immediately form a deeper connection than either of them could have imagined because they are able to say things to each other that they’ve not been able to say to anyone else. I thought this aspect of the story was just so beautifully done. The letters themselves were so raw and emotional, like reading someone’s diary and peering down deep into their souls, and they had me in tears on more than one occasion while reading.
In addition to the powerful exploration of grief, Letters to the Lost was also a wonderfully engaging read for me because of all the relationships. And not just Declan and Juliet’s either. They both have two of the most amazing best friends a person could ask for. I had already met Declan’s best friend, Rev, and knew how precious he was because I read Kemmerer’s More Than We Can Tell first and fell in love with him there, but Juliet’s best friend Rowan is equally amazing. Plus, there are also several adults (parents, teachers, and work supervisors) trying to be as supportive and non-judgmental as possible, which was just lovely to see, especially since a secondary theme of the book is about how wrong and unfair it is to judge people without ever bothering to get to know them first.
After reading and falling in love with both Letters to the Lost and More Than We Can Tell, Brigid Kemmerer has become an auto-buy author for me. Her writing is exquisite, and her stories are filled with such incredibly realistic characters that you won’t be able to stop yourself from becoming fully invested in their lives. If you’re looking for a read that will tug at your heart strings, I would highly recommend something from Kemmerer. 5 STARS
Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.
People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.
Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato follows American teen Lina, who is sent to live in Florence, Italy after her mother passes away. Lina’s mother had cancer and knew she was dying, so she made arrangements for Lina to go to Italy and get to know her father, whom she has never even met. Although Lina doesn’t want to leave her friends and move to Italy, she feels like she has to respect her mother’s dying wish and at least visit. Upon her arrival, she is handed an old journal that belonged to her mother that dates back to her own experiences living in Florence as a student. It’s this old journal that takes Lina on a journey that she never expected to – one that leads her to discover never-before-known truths about both herself and her parents.
Although she was a bit stubborn and irritable at first, I found Lina to be a very likeable and relatable character overall. It was easy to understand her attitude, given that she was being separated from everything she has ever known and sent off to live with strangers. At the same time, I liked that once she was in Florence, she became determined to make the best of the situation. I especially enjoyed reading along with her as she pored over her mother’s journal. Her mother adored Florence and so it was fun to watch Lina slowly but surely discover a similar love for the city. It was also fascinating to follow along as Lina learned more and more details about her mother’s life that had previously eluded her. In many ways, it felt like we were both just getting to know Lina’s mother for the first time.
While Lina’s journey is mostly about discovering truths about her family, she also meets some wonderful friends while in Italy. Ren, in particular, was just such a charming young man and I liked the friendship that developed between him and Lina, with its promise of becoming something more if Lina were to decide to stay in Florence.
My absolute favorite part of Love & Gelato though was that the author did such a magnificent job of capturing the essence of Florence and why it’s such an easy city to fall in love with. I’ve visited Florence once and, after reading this book, I’m dying to go back! 4 STARS