Book: Kissing in Italian
Author: Lauren Henderson
Age Range: 12 and up
Kissing in Italian is the sequel and conclusion to Lauren Henderson's Flirting in Italian. Both books feature a British girl named Violet Routledge who is doing a summer study program at a villa in Italy. Violet was actually drawn to the program after seeing a painting of a girl who looked remarkably like herself, and was from a castle located close to the villa. In the first book, Violet learned that she did indeed bear a strong family resemblance to the family from the castle, leading her to suspect that she might be the illegitimate daughter of the principe. This is a problem, because Violet is strongly attracted to the principe's son Luca.
Kissing in Italian follows Violet's continuing efforts to uncover the secrets of her heritage, while also attempting to resist the dashingly attractive Luca. There is also relationship drama in the lives of the other three girls in the program, one of whom becomes involved with an older, married man. (I found this icky, but so did Violet - the relationship never comes across as acceptable).
In truth, the mystery is pretty tame in this installment. Violet's parents are alive (though divorced and not physically with her in Italy). It's just a matter of her getting them to explain to her why she looks nothing like them, but does freakishly resemble some family in Italy. The real suspense lies in whether things will resolve in such a way that Violet and Luca can ever be together. There are other potential love interests for both Violet and Luca, too (since they are trying hard to stay away from one another, just in case). Here's Violet trying to become interested in another boy:
"Why does it feel so special when someone uses your name? Didn't some ancient society have a custom that you had a secret name that only the people you really trusted knew, because using it gave people power over you?
If that's true, and not just something I read i a novel, I really understand it now. There's something so nice about a boy saying your name. As if he likes you for yourself, what's inside as well as outside. Not just your boobs and face, but your brain, too.
Deliberately, I make myself smile back at him." (Page 36)
Despite being a bit less suspenseful than Henderson's other books (she also wrote the Kiss Me, Kill Me series), Kissing in Italian is still an enjoyable young adult romance. Settings include Siena, Florence, and Venice. There are villas, dance clubs, and late night swims with hot Italian boys. There's a hint of class-consciousness, and there are universal questions about whether one owes loyalty or protection to one's friends.
I like the multi-cultural mix of the book. Violet and Kelly's English background comes through, in contrast to Paige and Kendra's US-inspired tendencies. These are all set against the Italian backdrop, full of just enough Italian words to lend a multi-cultural feel, without making the book inaccessible. Like this:
"That's Italy for you. If you kissed passionately in public in London, people would judge you as attention-seekers and deliberately ignore you: In Italy, they practically applaud." (Page 223)
I also quite liked the way that Violet started to discover herself as an artist throughout the novel. Like this:
"I've discovered over the past few weeks that drawing or painting is the only thing in the world that can completely absorb me. It distracts me from any outside worries. When the art studio door closes, when I'm inside with paint or pastels or charcoal and a subject to focus on, I'm vacuum-sealed. The world beyond disappears.
I feel beyond lucky to have discovered this." (Page 67)
Violet goes on to muse about whether her friends have something like this. I think that this section will make readers thing about what makes the rest of the world disappear for them, too. And that's something that teens probably should be thinking about.
Kissing in Italian is clearly not intended to stand alone. If you haven't read Flirting in Italian, you should certainly read that first. If you have read Flirting in Italian, I'm sure that, like me, you'll want to find out how things turn out for Violet and Luca. And on that front, Kissing in Italian does not disappoint. I recommend this quick, two-book series for anyone who enjoys YA romance with an international flair.
Publisher: Delacorte Press (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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