Flirting in Italian Release Date: June 2012
Violet is off to a study course in Italy. Her mom thinks she's doing it for her university applications, but Violet has an ulterior motive. After seeing a painting of a beautiful young Italian aristocrat who could be her twin, she is determined to find out if there's a connection between them. At Villa Barbiano, home of the summer school, Violet meets two American girls, an English scholarship girl, and the daughter of the woman who runs the program, Elisa, who resents the foreigners and undermines them every chance she gets. Being in Italy is a dream come true for Violet, especially when she meets the dark, brooding Luca, heir to the castle on the hill--the very castle featured in the portrait that brought her to Italy. And Violet is determined to uncover its secrets no matter what the cost.
Short of it: Henderson’s writing is solid, but overall I was disappointed by the lack of action and conclusion for this novel. I feel like it’s sorely incomplete with book two (and three?) and therefore hard to thoroughly enjoy.
Plot: After reading 300+ pages I can’t really say what happened in this book beyond Violet has a mystery to solve and a hot thing for a boy that she meets in Italy. At the end of the book she is no closer to solving her mystery or hooking up with the boy. I felt so frustrated when I got to the last page and was told I should read the next book to see where Violet’s story will go. I don’t mind series, I really don’t, but I would have liked there to be more to Flirting in Italian. I was interested to find out more about why Violet looks so much like this family, but instead all I got was girl bonding, parties, long sighs over boys, and lessons about Italy. Just not enough to wet my appetite. I will continue on to book two, but only because I want to know how it all goes. It does look like this will be a trilogy, so I only hope book two offers more than book one did.
I will note that there is a lot of drinking mentioned, but the book is set in Europe where drinking ages are much different than here in the US. In fact, they are all old enough to be able to enjoying the wine they have. One thing I really liked was the several mentions that Italians do not drink to get drunk. And the one girl who does get hammered gets reprimanded for it the next day. I don’t know if Italian teens are truly that responsible, but I was glad it was handled maturely/as part of the experience.
Character: I don’t know how I feel about Violet. She’s a likable character, but she’s also a bit forgettable. I know she likes to think outside the box and that she likes art, but there isn’t much to know beyond that. Most of her focus is either on the mystery, longing for Luca, or on her fellow classmates/her lessons. While none of the girls are fully rounded, someone like Paige who is loud and proud stick out more in my mind than Violet.
She’s also got this weird wishy-washy insecurity thing going. One moment she is comparing herself to the other girls and how she doesn’t measure up and the next she’s cool with it. The majority of it has to do with her body and is constantly described as having “meat on her bones” but she’s not fat. I would assume she is average, healthy size, but sometimes it was hard to tell. Several times she says she’s not fat, but she’s also not super skinny or athletic and she’s not 100% happy with her body either. I suppose that’s true of all women, but it was weird to her flip-flop so often on if she was secure with herself/her body or not.
Romance: I’ll be the first to admit that Violet and Luca’s moments are HOT, but I’m not sure I’m feeling it yet. Luca is rather standoffish and at times mean. He may be sex reincarnated, but he is not someone I would want my friends to date. I hate how she gets so wrapped up in him and melts at a simple glance. But I know bad boys are still hot, so I’m sure I’ll be in the minority in this opinion. Luca does have several good moments, though, and I’m hoping as the series continues his true side will come out more and he’ll become a love interest I can get behind.
Writing: I won’t lie Henderson has a great style. For all I disliked about the book, it wasn’t until I peeked at the end of the book that putting it aside even crossed my mind. But even with knowing there wouldn’t be a true conclusion I still continued until the last page. Add in the fact, that while disappointed, I plan on checking out the next book. That’s skill. Henderson knows how to tell a story, I just wish there had been more of it in this one. I’ll probably check out her other books in hopes of finding something more satisfying.
Librarian-Mode: This is your classic beach read novel. It’ll go well with Dessen and general chick-lit fans. It would also go quite well with Jenny Hanh’s Summer series.
If you’ve read Flirting in Italian be sure to leave me a comment letting me know what you thought!