Summary (From the publisher):Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.
But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.
And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
When I think of ‘classic’ YA contemporaries from the past 5 years, Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato is a book that instantly comes to my mind. I read the first books in this travel-inspired series, Love & Gelato (takes place in Italy) and Love & Luck (takes place in Ireland) back in 2018, and had been eagerly anticipating this third installment ever since. Set in Santorini, Greece, Love & Olives follows Liv’s unexpected summer trip to spend two weeks with her estranged father, Nico, to help film a documentary series about Atlantis. Liv hasn’t seen her dad in nearly ten years and doesn’t even know where to begin with all of her questions & feelings surrounding why he left her in the US all those years ago. Her dad’s teenage film assistant, Theo, helps Liv navigate these feelings, while the two try to calm the chemistry between them.
In a world where I am not traveling at all (I haven’t even left the state I live in since February), Love & Olives made my already existing wanderlust soar to new heights. Santorini is absolutely on my travel bucket-list. Love & Olives made me want to book a trip as soon as possible. The book sent me to YouTube to watch some Santorini and Oia travel vlogs. In the meantime, I might finally reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, thanks to that series’ Greek setting, and maybe rewatch Mamma Mia. As a sidenote, I didn’t really see the Mamma Mia comparison in Love & Olives too much, since Liv obviously knows who her dad is, but I guess she is simarly combatting emotions and trying to figure out her father’s motives for not being part of her life for so long.
Love & Olives is definitely a longer YA contemporary read, clocking in around 500 pages. Many of you likely know that I don’t mind longer YA contemporaries over 350 pages, but I did feel like Love & Olives could have been shorter. The first 200 pages definitely did fly by, with Liv receiving her father’s invitation to Greece and actually getting there, but the story dragged in the middle as Liv and Theo help Nico get the documentary series off the ground. There are a ton of scenes and conversations between Liv & Theo, which I did enjoy because we do get to see the chemistry between them build, but I wanted more plot or action. Theo isn’t necessarily a new fictional crush of mine and I wouldn’t say him and Liv are my new YA power couple, but I didn’t mind their relationship. I was definitely more focused on the father-daughter dynamic …and actually how Liv was going to deal with her relationship with Dax (aka her real boyfriend at home). I think that relationship needed to be resolved before Theo really came into the picture.
When it comes to Liv, her plot outside her relationship with Nico, her story is about being honest with herself about what she truly wants college and romance wise. Dax wants Liv to go to school with him while Liv would much rather go to an arts college. Like I said, I don’t mind longer contemporary reads, but so many of the scenes felt repetitive. I just wanted Liv to move on and take some action about her feelings.
In addition, this is definitely a ‘it’s not the book, it’s me thing,’ but I also wasn’t super invested in the Atlantis sub-plot. I felt myself glossing over the passages when Nico talks about Atlantis and philosophy and was sort’ve waiting for Theo & Liv to return to the bookstore (which FYI, is my DREAM bookstore and place to live) or go on more night adventures around Santorini. And yes, how could I not yet mention that Liv’s dad co-runs a bookstore with Theo’s mom, filled with so many hideaways and romance books?? If there was one place I wish I could go to right now, it’s that bookstore!
Without being too spoilery, it became easy to predict what was going on with Liv’s father. I felt myself waiting for it to play out. I really appreciated that Liv’s relationship with her dad is at the heart of the book. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and while yes, trying to find a mythical island with your parent might not be the most realistic setting, their relationship did feel realistic for both its somberness and hope.
Overall, I enjoyed Love & Olives for its setting and focus on the father-dynamic dynamic. It’s not my favorite book in the Love & Gelato series, but it does make me excited to see what Jenna Evans Welch may write next.
Have you read Love & Olives yet? What’s your favorite book in the Love & Gelato series? If you could travel to one country right now, where would it be? Share in the comments!