Publication Date: 2014
Interest Age: 12 years & up
Annotation: Unhappy about her parents’ decision to ship her off to Florence for an extensive art history program, Pippa jets off on an Italian adventure of her choosing and falls in love with two boys along the way. But how long before her parents find out the truth of her summer?
Plot Summary: Pippa’s got plans for her summer year before the senior year of high school and they certainly did not involve going to Florence for an art program. Her parents want her to take over the family galley eventually and therefore shipping her to Italy for an extensive arts program. Pippa has no interest in running a gallery – she would rather study photography. In an effort to make the trip fun, her best friend Morgan gifts her with a journal filled with tasks or challenges to complete during the trip including falling in love with an Italian.
Arriving in Italy three days before her program starts, Pippa hits the ground running to experience some of Rome’s treasures before classes start in Florence. After all, she is in a foreign country with no parents. Taking it even further, Pippa soon decides to forego the entire program and gallivants off on the Italian trip of her choosing. Soon, she is making new friends including two potential love interests and experiencing the sights of Pompeii and Cinque Terre. But how long before her parents find out the truth of her summer program?
Critical Evaluation: Before I start in on my thoughts for this novel, I want to briefly mention that Wish You Were Italian is the debut of Bloomsbury’s ‘If Only’ series focused on contemporary YA romance stories both standalone and series. Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard is the other novel debuting for this line and they have several lined up for the fall. To read more about ‘If Only’ check out this PW article.
Let’s start with the packaging: the bold pink letters, the hand-drawn Coliseum in the background and the girl on the back of a boy’s Vespa with flowers. With that kind of cover, the expectations is a cute love story set in Italy. Which hits right on the mark – Wish You Were Italian is primarily a love story.
Our protagonist, Pippa, throws out a parent approved summer in a Florence art program and opts to explore Italy her own way. First off, I have to give kudos to Pippa for stepping out of her comfort level and bucking parental authority. It’s brave exploring a foreign country on your own. While adventuring, she meets an sweet American archeology student and a hot, but trouble Italian boy which leads to the faithful question: who will she choose? Ah, the love triangle…generally I hate love triangle stories, but it actually sort of works for this novel. One of Pippa’s goals is to fall in love with an Italian and come on, who doesn’t want a romance with a hot foreigner on vacation. However, the American archeology has his own merits and it seems like fate keeps throwing him in her path. First in Rome, then in Cinque Terre.
Speaking of Rome and Cinque Terre – this is where the novel shines. The setting. Rae brings Italy to life in her story and makes me feels like I just visited Rome yesterday, when it was actually two years ago. And Cinque Terre, I never had an interest in going there prior to reading this, but now I feel like it a must see. The charming towns nestled together, the Via dell’Amore and the blue-green Ligurian Sea. And not just the visual setting, but her description of the hustle and bustle and the Italian food – this novel should come with a warning: will make you crave pasta and gelato.
While Rae does fantastically describing Italy, I had trouble with the secondary plot line in the novel. The relationship issue between Pippa and her mom. Pippa bucking parental authority on this trip echoes a bigger theme the novel tries to address on dealing with parents expectations versus following her own dreams. Pippa mentions several times her’s mom dream of owning a gallery and passing it to her is something she never wanted and that Pippa has her own dreams of photography. I felt like the parental relationship, especially the mom daughter one, got a big cop out at the end of the story and never really meaningfully explored, especially with all that potential. On the flip side, I adored Pippa’s relationship with her Gram and it’s definitely something lovely to see in YA lit – a fantastic relationship with a grandparent.
Overall, I enjoyed Wish You Were Italian and it was a fun breezy read that took me away from reality for a few hours.
Author Bio: Kristin Rae was born and raised in Texas though her accent would suggest otherwise. She’s addicted to books, music, movies, crafty things, and chocolate. A former figure skating coach, LEGO merchandiser, and photographer, she’s now happy to create stories while pretending to ignore the carton of gelato in the freezer. Kristin lives in Houston with her husband and their two boxers. (via book jacket)
Tie to Curriculum Units: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: Straight to paperback, foreign setting and the love triangles
Challenge Issues: Since its publication there has been no known challenges issues against Wish You Were Italian. If this were challenged, one can highlight that readers do have a freedom of choice and the library’s role in serving all the people. One recommendation I usually recommend when parents are hesitant about their child’s book choice is to read it with them and discuss themes and issues present in the novel.