Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2020. 9781534448834
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Liv Varanakis’s dad left her and her mother when she was eight. She tries very hard not to let her ongoing grief at losing her favorite person color her outlook on life. She loves her new family and has a boyfriend who cares for her. When, out of the blue, her mother sends her to Santorini, where her Greek father now lives, she is both angry and curious. Why now?, and, yikes, Will she be able to finally understand why he left them? Liv, who was originally named Olive, quickly comes to love the scenic island in the Cyclades, and is intrigued by the life her father, Nico, has made for himself. She is also intrigued by the handsome and playful Theo, the son of Nico’s girlfriend. Together they work furiously to make a movie on the topic that so consumed her father when he still lived with Liv: the search for Atlantis.
This is a charming romantic comedy, with a narrator who has a big heart, saddened by longing but believable and funny, and her friendship with Nico is adorable to watch. The ending, which I didn’t see coming, brings up understanding of mental illness. The setting is nicely evoked – I can practically smell the seafood and lemons! – and captures the spirit of the Greek islanders who make up the motley cast of supporting characters. Sprinklings of Greek, which this Greek speaker can attest are accurate, add spice. If you don’t want to visit Santorini after reading this, I’ll eat my καπέλο!
Anything you didn’t like about it? I would have liked a bit more character development for Theo and Nico.
To whom would you recommend this book? For fans of Welch’s other romantic comedies (Love & Gelato and Love and Luck), and teens who enjoy romances set in the Mediterranean. It’s fine for ages 13 and up, with kissing but no sex.
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Teen fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, if you’re in the mood for a fun, light, scenic romance.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: January 15, 2021