Every once in a while I feel the need to relax with a cute YA romance read... this is a good one. It's marketed as "Pretty In Pink meets Anna and The French Kiss" - I'm not sure about this comparison because I have only a foggy idea of the former and haven't read the latter (I must be the last blogger who still has to read that book).
Fiorella Marino is a quiet, nearly-invisible girl at Willing School. She's satisfied with hanging out with her friends, and observing her crush Alex Bainbridge, the school's most popular boy, from afar. In her free time, she works at the family Italian restaurant and has mental conversations with her idol - 19th century obscure painter Edward Willing. Ella and Alex are unexpectedly thrown together when he starts tutoring her in French, and she discover they have many things in common; first of all, their appreciation for art. Ella hopes that their friendship will become something more, but is it wise to wish for that, when Alex doesn't even want his friends to know that they're going out?
Ella has deep scars on her shoulder thanks to an accident when she was a small child. As a result, she tends to cover herself up and try to go unnoticed. Bullies at her school nicknamed her "Freddy" and it stuck, even though many people may not even remember what it was about. She has a loud Italian family, complete with a wise, sometimes overbearing grandma who serves almost as a fairy goodmother. (It seems no authentic family of Italian immigrants is complete without such a grandma. Think Looking for Alibrandi).
The author points out that Ella's name means "Flower of the Sea", while Ella's grandma's name is Estella Marino, "Star of the Sea". Let's ignore the fact that adjectives in Italian, as in all romance languages, actually need to take the name's gender and number - so it would have to be Fiorella/Estella Marina. But why, oh why Estella? The Italian name would be Stella. No "e". Estella would be Spanish, I think (or maybe the Spanish would be Estrella, but that's not the point). And grandma Estella was born in Italy, so she'd need a proper Italian name. Call me a nitpicker, but is it really that difficult for an author to check this sort of facts with someone who actually knows some Italian? Judging from all the Italian-Americans in books and music, the US must be almost crawling with people of Italian descent. To be fair, though, I must add that grandma Estella's Italian is way more accurate than what you read in most books. (The thing that bothers me the most is when American people say, Capisce? - the Mafia way - to other characters whom they are familiar with, so it would make more sense to say Capisci. But that's digressing.)
Romance books in YA usually follow two patterns - unpopular girl has a crush on popular boy and then he notices her; or unpopular girl has a crush on popular boy, they date for a while, then girl realizes he's an idiot and starts dating her sweet best friend or next-door neighbour. This book clearly follows the first pattern; there's no alternative love interest for Ella other than Alex. The two other males in the book are Ella's close friend Frankie, who is gay and flamboyant, and Edward, with whom Ella is very interested (she's writing her research paper on him). Alex is a nice character, although not particularly crush-worthy as far as male lead go.
All in all, this was a cute romance book. I'd recommend to lovers of contemporary-YA-without-serious-issues and romance.Cover attraction:
I like it. It sort of reminds me of Elizabeth Scott's Perfect You (I loved that book). The painting is a nice touch and refers to the main characters' interest in art.