Penny Piva. CreateSpace, $12.99 paper (290p) ISBN 978-1-4781-2580-8
Piva fuses romance, family, food, travel, and a touch of mystery in this charming, character-driven story narrated by 17-year-old Hazel. She’s been anticipating a fun summer at her family’s beach house, since (in one of the novel’s few contrived turns) the girl Hazel has a crush on is moving in next door. Instead, Hazel is recruited to spend the vacation in Italy with her Aunt Vix, so “she can work on her next book and I can experience life.” Hazel does exactly that as she makes friends in the Italian town where Vix rents a house, most notably the alluring and effervescent Isabella. The two share a mutual attraction and a passion for cooking, both of which intensify as Hazel resolves her conflicted feelings about love. A suave Italian boy and an outspoken American girl round out the likable cast, joining Hazel and Isabella’s quest to catch the thieves responsible for a string of robberies. This mystery angle adds some intrigue, though the solution holds little surprise. Hazel’s credible and often funny narration keeps Piva’s novel moving at a bracing clip. Ages 14–up.
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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