Flirting in Italian, by Lauren Henderson

Lauren Henderson's 2012 novel Flirting in Italian is jam-packed with things I enjoy: girl bonding, travel, mystery, romance, and telenovela-worthy birth secrets. It's close to the perfect summer beach read—apart from one jarring flaw.

Henderson's heroine is British teenager Violet Routledge, the inexplicably short, curvy, dark-haired daughter of two tall, lanky, light-haired parents. After stumbling across an 18th century portrait of an Italian girl who could pass for her twin, Violet can't help but wonder if her parents have hidden something from her (like, an adoption). Reluctant to question her overly sensitive mother without proof, Violet signs up for a summer course at a school in the Italian countryside, and sets out to investigate her possible connection to the unnamed girl in the painting.

My favorite thing about Flirting in Italian is the novel's many lively, memorable female characters, all of whom feature distinct voices and personalities. Violet's Italian adventure is shared by her three classmates: wealthy Americans Paige and Kendra, and English scholarship student Kelly. The girls develop an alliance that feels remarkably true to life—they're not bosom buddies, but they stand by one another. The other aspects of the novel (the Gothic-novel mystery of the portrait, Violet's romance with handsome, brooding Luca di Vesperi, the Mean Girls hijinks of their Italian instructor's daughter) are less realistic, but still more than entertaining enough to while away a summer afternoon...

...until you hit page 320, when the action stops with an abrupt “Follow Violet and Luca's story in the upcoming Kissing in Italian”. WHAT? Right when things really start heating up, the story is OVER? Thankfully, we're at least three years late writing this review, so I can hunt down a copy of the sequel immediately, but if I had read this book when it first came out and just discovered I was still a full year away from actual plot resolution, I'd be super grumpy right now.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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