I’m not even going to sugar coat this for you guys; the Netflix movie was a DISASTER! They turned a beautiful book about a girl’s journey of healing and self-discovery into a romcom about a goofy teenager (more like a terrible two-year-old) caught up in a love triangle! No, just no. Everything about the main character was terrible, particularly her constant temper tantrums. That’s not how it went down in the book, people! Please do not watch this movie and vow to never read the book. I promise you, the book is nothing like this Netflix botch-job. Hell, they didn’t even set it in the same city for reasons unknown. Aside from a few problem spots, this is a quality read that is sure to satisfy escapists like me who yearn for world travel but prefer to do it vicariously through books. Hey—airfare is expensive! And then there’s the actual awful experience of airports and security checks. Na-Ma-Stay at home with my books, thanks.
Why I liked it: I’m a sucker for “girl abroad” books and have been chasing that high I got from 13 Little Blue Envelopes for quite some time. Finally, I found another fantastic summertime escapade to Europe, this time in Florence, Italy! I loved traveling with Lina and Ren (her soccer-playing love interest) on their motorcycle adventures as they trapsed across the city on clue-solving missions. If this was a book about a girl falling in love in Italy, I would’ve given it a hard pass, but this one is all about the mystery of Lina’s recently deceased mother. Why did she send Lina to live with a father in a foreign country–a father she never knew existed? And why couldn’t she have at least warned her that he lived in a cemetery??? I mean, she had some time on her deathbed to share some of this pertinent information, so why all the secrecy??? To be honest, I’m still a little mad about that, which brings me to my next section…
What irked me: All the miscommunication and secrecy!!! My God, it makes zero sense why Lina’s mother would leave her in the dark about her baby daddy. Did she just assume it would be better for Lina to read about it all in her journal? If so, that’s really lame. And let’s talk about the journal for a moment. When Lina arrives at the cemetery house, she is given her mother’s journal, which contains everything she needs to know about what went down in Italy those many years ago. What does Lena do? She obsesses about her mother’s past, but yet she can only read the journal in tiny little increments. While the answers are all just right under her fingertips, she spends her days in turmoil agonizing about what happened. To get answers, she makes Ren drive her around the city and go on desperate scavenger hunts for clues—clues that are all there for the taking in THE DANG JOURNAL!!! So yeah, this part really bugged me.
Thoughts on the main character: I have lukewarm feelings for Lena, mainly because she was just a little too aloof around Howard, the mysterious new dad. He tried so hard to make her feel comfortable in her new home, but she just kept blowing him off. Until the concluding chapters, she only asked him a couple very tentative questions about her mother, which kind of drove me bonkers. You’re desperate for answers and this man is the key! Also…have I mentioned the journal???
Thoughts on the setting: I loved, loved, loved that Lena’s new home was situated smack dab in the middle of a WWII memorial cemetery. It was interesting to see how, during the healing process, she started to see this place as less creepy and more peaceful and homelike. I really thought this symbolism of bereavement and healing was really beautiful. Of course, the movie had to be as generic as possible, so they stripped this part out and plunked loudmouth, goofball Lina in Francesca’s opulent apartment. Mind you, Francesca, her mother’s old college friend, didn’t even have a big role in the book. . This is a story about father-daughter bonding, and they couldn’t even get that right. But moviemakers do what moviemakers do, I suppose
The romance: I do love a splash of romance in YA stories, so I enjoyed Lina and Ren’s blossoming love affair. However, I could’ve done without the third potential suiter. Love triangles are annoying for so many reasons—one being the leading lady gets super annoying with her indecision. I hated how Lina strung the other guy along when she knew full well that she only had lukewarm feelings toward him at best. Really, this book would’ve been better without that unnecessary tension. The mystery of her mother was enough to keep me reading.
Overall: If you love Italian escapades, fun summer reads and gelato, you really must read this book. It’s not perfect, but well worth a read. I must warn you though, you will be yearning for gelato, cannoli and all the sugary sweets while reading this thing!