Guidebooks, Ireland, and Siblings REVIEWING Love & Luck

Welcome to today's review! 

Today we are talking about a book that is kind of a sequel, but which I did not realize at the time that I read it. We are going to the Emerald Isle, on a book trip!

Love & Luck

Author: Jenna Evans Welch
Genre: YA Contemporary
Year: 2018

Love & Luck


Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt's over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken -- and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn't about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can't wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother -- and her problems -- behind. 

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she's able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian's criticism. 

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world's smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don't get completely lost along the way.


Okay, first things first, this is a sequel to the popular book, Love & Gelato, which I have heard of, but haven't read. When I saw this book on Riveted (a website with YA that often offers books to read online for free for a limited time -- legally), I just thought the premise sounded good. So going in, I had no preconceived ideas about any characters or plots that are important to the previous story. So I'm reviewing this from a stand-alone perspective. That may be important to note. 

The last time I read a book with a similar concept to this (teen girl travels overseas trying to figure herself out and potentially finding love), was several years ago, and it was a book called Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. As I was reading this book, I was feeling some similar vibes, although the stories are very different. Books like this just give me a certain little feeling when I read them. They invoke that little sense of wanderlust and wanting to see something new, be somewhere a little different, go off the beaten path and take a journey that is distinctly yours in some way. I like getting that feeling when I'm reading. 

As the synopsis says, Addie has trouble. I'm not going to give it away in this review, because the book goes to pretty big lengths to postpone the "big reveal" of what I'll respect that. However, I will say that in this day of technology and rapid communication and sharing of media, it wasn't too hard to guess at in general at times. I will say that this is a good read for girls especially who may be walking a similar trajectory that Addie was, thinking you could trust someone, when it comes to relationships. This could be a good way to present the negatives that come about with certain actions regarding technology in order to prevent it or bring about a second thought for caution. OR it could also be a good book for if a teen finds themselves already IN this kind of situation that Addie is in, because it shows that one moment, one action, does not always determine your whole life and that high school isn't the only place that exists in the world. I know that seems vague, but again, trying to respect the lengths went to, to making it a hidden, but crucial plot point. Long story short, Addie had boy trouble. Her brother found out about it, and she hasn't told her parents. Her brother, however, is also keeping some secrets. 

While in Ireland for their aunt's wedding (a woman that we thankfully barely have to read about at all), Ian is pressuring Addie to come clean about what happened to her. Addie is trying to just forget about it and try to move on, handling it herself even though she's emotionally shattered. They get into a physical altercation at the wedding and end up rolling down a hill, causing a scene. Their parents decide that the best means of getting them to behave is to force them to stay together, or else lose the things (activities) they love most when they get back home. The idea is that Ian will accompany Addie to Italy, where she is going to see her best friend,  Lena. 

This is where that note about me not having read Love & Gelato comes in. Lena was the main character of that book, so things here in this book with her are a result of events in that book, so I'll do my best to just skirt around details that I probably wasn't going to talk about in this review anyway. I saw other reviewers saying that the first book was better and that certain things that were there that were enjoyable, weren't in this book....I don't care. I didn't read it, I probably will later, but by itself, I took this novel for what it was. 

Anyway, Lena has been in Italy and Addie hasn't told her what has happened yet. She plans to tell her once she arrives in Italy, and just be with her best friend. They're going to hang out, Lena will help her get over the hurdle, and things will just be great. Until Ian ruins it. Instead of sticking with Addie, he decides he's going to leave the hotel early to go on a trip of his own, NOT to Italy, and then meet up with Addie again, just before they join back up with their parents. Addie is having none of that, insisting that they can't do that...and it turns into Addie going with Ian and his friend on a music based roadtrip, culminating in a concert for he and his friend's favorite band. Along the way, Addie finds out a lot about her brother and the secrets he keeps. They fight, like siblings, and endure lots of bumps on the road during their journey to figure out how to get along and who they both are going into the future. 

This book has some divisions between some chapters. That guidebook mentioned in the synopsis has pages included within the book. So we read along with some of what Addie is reading. The guidebook provides instructions for activities to do at various locations, with the idea that your heartbreak, by the end of every activity and place, will find a semblance of peace instead of turmoil. These sections were short, often just two pages or so, and helped to provide a little extra information about locations. The tone of the guidebook writer was sassy, but helpful, and enjoyable. This is an example where a shift in the story and tone, doesn't detract from the overall story, but adds a new layer to it. 

Let's talk about the characters, starting with Addie. 

Addie is young and she was head over heels for a boy, until things went sour. She enters Ireland heartbroken, hoping to heal. 

Ian is her brother and they used to be inseparable, the best of friends. Eventually they drifted apart and now Ian is constantly fighting with Addie about being honest, even if he hasn't been.

Rowan is Ian's friend in Ireland. He is a neutral party during the sibling bickering and he tries to get to know them both better. He has his own heartbreak that he's nursing, that is different from Addie's, but no less valid. He begins to do the activities from the guidebook with Addie, hoping that he will find some peace with it as well. 

The main thing that I liked about this book was Addie's journey. Addie begins the book as a girl who is very self-conscious. She doesn't feel like she is worth very much to a certain extent, but she's still a generally tough girl. She has non-traditional strengths that end up being very helpful during the trip. She is good with cars, so she serves as the mechanic for Ian's cruddy, beat-up car. Through the trip, she meets other people who help her see a little differently, and she realizes with the help of her friends, that she is already valued and that she should value herself more. One of the final scenes with her friends, the big encircling moment, honestly made me tear up. I love seeing people band together to support one another and emotions coming out makes my emotions come out. That was my favorite scene in the book. If you've read it, you know which part I mean, and if you choose to read it, you'll know it when you see it. 

That being said, one of the main complaints I've seen about this book is that it's called Love & Luck, but there's barely any "love" in it. I think that it depends on how you look at it. There's something budding with Addie and Rowan for sure, but no, it doesn't take center stage for the book. If that's what you're here for, or if that's what you think this book is going to be, it isn't. You won't find that here and you might be disappointed. However, I actually thought this was an exceptional book in many ways because of that. Typically when we think of love stories, we think of romance. We think of foreign places having people with accents that show us new views on life and who appreciate us more than the people we could court or be courted by back at our own home. People who see us differently and give us new food and show us beautiful, off-the-beaten path places that we cherish forever. Yeah...that's all great and possible, and sometimes we need stories like that. But what growing up has taught me, and what I've seen a lot of over the years, is that there are different kinds of love: 
  • love that exists between families that holds them together
  • love between a parent and child
  • love between siblings (where you would do so much for them while simultaneously mutually wanting to beat each other up a little, or torment and annoy them, just for fun, because you're around them so much and know them so well that they drive you crazy)
  • love between partners romantically with dates, love languages, and romantic gestures (like the kind found often in shojo manga)
  • love that is platonic that you have for your friends (where they have your back and you have theirs; where you can hang for a bit or go years without talking and come right back to a conversation like it never ended; like they're almost adopted siblings)

However, one that tends to be left out or not appreciated as much, is self-love. While it is focused on a lot in media that I've seen or stories I've read, I've not always seen people comment on it and I haven't seen it done in the way that this novel does it. It does it so subtly, that I feel like people have completely glazed over it, without realizing it. This story is not about someone fixing Addie's heart. It isn't about one guy being better than another. It is about a girl making mistakes, but realizing that she is still HER. That she is beautiful and fierce being who she already is. It is about being willing to accept yourself and be the best, most confident version of yourself that you can be. Because a lot of times, that is very healing in of itself, and it can lead to a pathway for other kinds of love, that will be stronger. I honestly feel like that is what the Love is in this book. If you're not prepared for that, or don't have your eyes open to that idea, then you'll miss it and feel like this book ripped you off by not delivering love, instead of realizing it handed it right to you all along the way. The best part? It isn't preachy! It doesn't feel like a cheesy, school distributed video about how 'special we are in our own way', in that stereotypical cheesy voice. You know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. I have never enjoyed those, and I don't like when things try to tell me repeatedly and too directly, what I should do and how I should be. But when it is subtle and just shows you that its a good thing without any kind of force behind it, it just feels real nice to me, because it feels genuine instead of forced.  

The other major complaint about this book is that the siblings fight too much...which I kind of understand. It can get annoying in general, but at the same time, I have a sister. We still nag at each other about things that happened years ago. Is it annoying? Yep, but it's just a thing we do. It's like sharing a common memory that you look back on every now and again, except with the point of annoying each other. I've also seen twins bicker in the middle of class back when I was in school so this neither bothers me, nor does it strike me as out of the ordinary. I've seen too much and lived with a sibling too long to think that its a negative point of this book. Yes, not all siblings are the same and yes, I probably seem like I could probably be a somewhat bad person with the way I nonchalantly talk about my sister and I messing with each other, but honestly, that's with siblings sometimes. It is never intended to be mean, its just part of how we interact and its natural to some degree and as long as we know where the boundaries are and don't cross them, we're good. At the end of the day, we have each other's backs and are each other's biggest fans, so its all good in our book. 

I think I've gone on enough tangents for this novel now. I give Love & Luck a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯ and a half. It isn't one of the greatest books I've read in my life, but it sure has some wonderful moments in it that feel magical to me. I truly think that if I came across someone who I felt was in Addie's position, I would feel 100% like this would be a good book to recommend to them. You find out a lot about yourself when you travel places, but sometimes a travel through a good book is enough to get some things worked out too. 

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring the books to your screen and even provide my own two cents about them. See you at the next one!