Review: Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry

Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry
Series: No
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: September 1, 2015 by AW Teen
Format: e-ARC
Source: NetGalley
Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon


Years ago, Clara survived a vicious bear attack. She's used to getting sympathetic looks around town, but meeting strangers is a different story. Yet her dreams go far beyond Knik, Alaska, and now she's got a secret that's both thrilling and terrifying--an acceptance letter from Columbia University. But it turns out her scars aren't as fixable as she hoped, and when her boyfriend begins to press for a forever commitment, she has second thoughts about New York. Then Rhodes, a student teacher in her English class, forces her to acknowledge her writing talent, and everything becomes even more confusing--especially with the feelings she's starting to have about him. Now all Clara wants to do is hide from the tough choices she has to make. When her world comes crashing down around her, Clara has to confront her problems and find her way to a decision. Will she choose the life of her dreams or the life that someone she loves has chosen? Which choice is scarier?

My Thoughts

I will start by saying that Jolene Perry's The Summer I Found You was one of my favorites of 2014. I clicked with those characters so completely and was so emotionally invested in their story. That book truly made an impact on me.

Fast forward one year to when I saw Has to Be Love on NetGalley. And my delight when I was approved for an advanced copy. I was beyond ready to immerse myself in another offering by Perry.

And now fast forward once again to where I'm left completely disappointed. Can this be the same author that created characters like Kate and Aidan (from The Summer I Found You)? Who created a story line that was so realistic and emotional that it truly resonated with me? Color me confused.

Clara is not a particularly likable character. Problematic when she is the main character and the reader is supposed to get behind her and be invested in her choices. Didn't happen. Clara was a survivor of a bear attack that killed her mother and left her with facial scars. While I empathized with her situation, it was frustrating that Clara used the facial scarring to define herself. It ruled every aspect of her life. After 5 years, she was still living with the notion that she was nothing more than her physical appearance, unsure why her boyfriend was still with her, and putting her future on hold until her scars could be "fixed." I tried to put myself in Clara's shoes, I tried to chalk her feelings up to her age, I tried everything to get past her total fixation on her scars but I just couldn't. Clara was so convinced that she was nothing more than her scars that it started to convince me, the reader, of the same thing.

I mentioned above that the reader should be invested in Clara's choices. That proved almost impossible because Clara never made any! This was 250+ pages of Clara waffling back and forth over EVERYTHING. Again, I tried to chalk this up to her age. Seventeen is a time of big life changes. But even so, it was maddening. When faced with where to go to college, her future with her boyfriend, her feelings for a newcomer... she agonized over what to do but never actually made any decisions. She simply allowed events to unfold and then reacted. I was ready to shake her.

Another issue I had was how the theme of religion was used. Religion was supposedly a large part of Clara's life. However, she used her religion only when it suited her. When she wanted to engage in behaviors that were questionable (according to her religious beliefs), poof! Religion seemed to go out the window and was nowhere to be found. It smacked of hypocrisy and became a big sticking point for me.

Boyfriend Elias was a plus. Yes, he bordered on the too-good-to-be-true, but he was genuine and sweet and earnest. BFF Cecily's only purpose seemed to be as a sounding board for Clara. I nominate Clara for the Worst Friend Ever award since this friendship appeared to be completely one-sided. All about Clara, all the time.

The ending provided a fairly satisfying conclusion but that did not make up for my issues with Clara. She came across as a self-absorbed girl who would neither make a decision on her own nor open up to those around her for help or advice.

While I do enjoy Perry's writing style and will likely read more from her, Has to Be Love is not one I recommend.

Note: ARC provided by NetGalley and AW Teen in exchange for an honest review.

ARC kindly provided by NetGalley and AW Teen 
in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read a book where you didn't connect with the main character?
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