Has to Be Love
Author: Jolene Perry
Expected publication: September 1, 2015
Published by: AW Teen
Format: 272 pages, Hardcover
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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**I received an eBook copy of Has to Be Love through Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.**
When Clara was younger, an everyday walk through the woods in Alaska turned tragic when a bear attacked and left her mother dead. Years later, Clara is coping with the visible scars on her face, shoulders, and backs with her father, best friend Cecily, and boyfriend Elias. Her life thrown into a rollercoaster ride when she receives an acceptance letter to her dream college: prestigious Columbia University. She has always dreamed of going and seeing the world outside of her small Alaskan town but that would mean leaving her father, her longtime boyfriend, and everything she’s ever known. When Rhodes enters her life, he makes her question her decision about staying and even her relationship with Elias.
Plot/Concept: Has to Be Love surrounds self-discovery and hard decisions. Given her age, it was very fitting and normal for Clara to be so hormonally charged and indecisive. I get that. I do. I was seventeen once and very indecisive but not as much as her and my hormones weren’t that crazy. I was more moody and emotional than anything. Her hormones were on steroids or something. I do like the plot and concept of the book, aside from the scars and bear attack, I’m sure somewhere out there teenagers are going through that college application phase, staying at home or moving away, staying with their significant others and so on. I like how in a way, this book can give them advice about it.
When I started reading it, I really liked it and thought that it was a solid 4-star rating but as Clara’s story went on, the things she did and how the plot turned, it lowered. There is a love triangle in this book and while I understand its progression, I don’t think that it should’ve gone as far as it did. I also liked that religion played an important part in this book. I’m a very spiritual person and I hardly ever see YA books with main characters that want to stay abstinent until marriage so that was like a breath of fresh air.
Writing: The writing was very likable and was set at a great pace. There was a lot of detail and the imagery was great! It felt like I could see, feel, and smell Knik, Alaska. I liked the simplicity of the writing and how that totally contradicts what Clara was feeling and going through. I love the little tidbits of Clara’s writing and poetry in the book. It helps us understand her more and adds to her personality. There were some pretty steamy scenes that were very well written. I think that the characters were mostly well written and Clara goes through great development. I also liked that we got to learn a little about Mormon beliefs without it being a religion/history lesson.
Characters: Clara was incredibly frustrating. I can understand indecision. I can understand her hate for her scars. She was smart, funny, a great writer, sweet, and dependable. Yet, she relies so much on those scars, she mixes up inner and outer beauty. At some times, she’s very selfish. I’m not talking about going to Columbia because YES! I’m all for traveling and education and I would never want her to hold back such an amazing opportunity. I’m talking about her stringing Elias along. She tells him she loves him yet on the inside she knows she’s lukewarm and so many times she talks about how he’s the safe option. It felt like she was staying with him because he’s the only one that didn’t care about the scars and that was extremely wrong.
Along with that, I couldn’t stand her lying. She tells no one about her acceptance to Columbia and lies to her boyfriend constantly about her relationship with Rhodes. Clara shows how much she doesn’t know her boyfriend. She didn’t tell him about Columbia because she knew he wouldn’t let her go. WRONG! He wanted everything for her and would never ask her to stay. Then Rhodes comes along and she questions everything that Elias has ever been for her. Rhodes … I have a bone to pick with you! I thought you were cool but once you started pushing the boundaries with someone who’s already in a relationship, it shows me that you don’t respect them. Plus! You’re her teacher! Thanks for being professional.
This book would definitely be rated lower had it not been for Elias. Elias is everything that is good in this world. This explains my gif choice because things that happened with him were not fair. He’s smart, respectful, loyal, responsible, sweet, he’s a man with a plan, and every other great adjective. How much he loved Clara astounds me. I think how Clara treated him was so unfair and it broke my heart. He does things that readers may interpret as being pushy, like pretty much assuming that they’ll live together, but that’s because he thought that’s what Clara wanted. Clara never tells him what she wants so how would he know otherwise? I just kept thinking of how if this book was written in his POV, he’d be playing “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran on repeat.
Cecily, last character I promise, is her best friend. She is the beacon of light for Clara. Everyone needs a friend like Cecily. Rhodes kept pushing her to go to Columbia and Elias unintentionally keeping her in Alaska. Cecily was the middle ground. She told Clara what she needed to hear, not what she wanted and helped her realize the beauty in her scars.
Memorable Moments: The ending was really memorable for me because it tied up so many things. I really like how it ended and how much Clara grew in her journey. My absolute favorite parts of the book were when Elias and Cecily reassured Clara of how they feel for her despite her scars. It was so incredibly sweet and true and I loved it even more when Clara believed it.
My Verdict: Buy, Borrow, or Skip?
I just wanted to add this video/song because it was the only song playing through my mind while I read Has to Be Love and I think it’s very fitting!