It's been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie's dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer's here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy - but what's it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms - the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was. With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again - gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with - or so she thinks. What's going to happen this time? What's more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky - Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn't know how she fits in any more. Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?
(An e-copy of this book was provided to me via Netgalley).
If you need a book to bring with you to the beach, on holiday, or just if you're feeling a bit crappy and want to spend the day wrapped in blankets with tea in your hand - One Italian Summer is the book for you. Somehow Keris Stainton managed to find the perfect balance between a cute, summery, fluffy contemporary and a hard-hitting, intensely insightful story about grief. One Italian Summer was such a lovely, quick read that left me squealing and wiping away my tears at the same time.
One of the things that completely sold me on this book is the family aspect: Milly, Elyse, Leonie and their mum are all completely different individuals. Milly is a self-proclaimed worrier, and always has been, except her anxiety concerning her family has only worsened after the loss of their father - even to the point of putting her dreams of studying music on the line. Elyse yearns to seek a place for herself that is separate from her family, and makes plans to settle down with her boyfriend, Robbie, after returning home from the summer. Leonie is undescribable. She longs for adventure, and excitement and feels burdened by the weight of Milly's worry. Their mum is coping with grief by working non-stop and somewhat shutting her daughters out, leaving them to deal with the loss of their father on their own. Each member of this family is so vibrant, and just jumps off the page. To some extent I was so tuned in with their individual personalities that I knew how they were going to react to situations before they even did it.
The way that One Italian Summer deals with the idea of grief is so subtly moving, because it builds up throughout the story, and each character shares their own experience with the loss they're dealing with. Even the side characters have their own stories, and their own methods when it comes to grieving. Keris Stainton balances the more intense moments throughout the book with wit, and manages to lift the mood until you've forgotten that this ultimately, is a story about three girls who have lost their father.
Even the romance in this book was absolutely perfect, there was just the right amount of pining and lusting until they eventually sorted themselves out. And Milly doesn't shy away from the fact that she really wants to have sex with Luke, and wants to have sex in general, which is just another aspect for me to add onto things I love about this book, because for me, YA shouldn't shy away from sex. Luke and Milly's romance story wasn't sidelined in any way, it still felt just as important as the story of a family who were trying to cope and find their way back to being a family again, which made the book even more perfectly put together.
I'm running out of ways to gush about One Italian Summer, so I'm going to wrap this up now, but just know that this book was absolutely wonderful and it's definitely worth a read or five!