Title: Has to be Love
Author: Jolene Perry
Publisher: AW Teen
Publication Date: September 2015
Rating: 3.5 stars
“My hair flies out behind me as I race on my four-wheeler toward the hardware store.”
*I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When Clara was a child, she and her mother would often explore the Alaskan woods behind their home on horseback, four-wheelers, or just on their feet for a walk. Until one chance moment changed everything. Now Clara must find a way to ignore the looks she gets from strangers. They all do it; Clara sees the way their eyes move from her eyes to the scars all over her face. All she wants is to look ‘normal’ again. She wants to look like herself. During her senior year of high school, Clara gets accepted to her dream school – Columbia University in New York. But how can she leave her home? How can she leave her small town where everybody knows everybody, and trade it for a place where everyone will stare at her like she’s a freak? And then there’s Rhodes, the new student teacher who just happens to be a student at Columbia. Rhodes, who also happens to give her an extreme case of butterflies and has her questioning her relationship with her longtime boyfriend, Elias. With all these choices and impending decisions to make, how does Clara figure out what’s right? How does she know what’s best for her? How do you plan for the future when even the present is so unpredictable?
This was another book that took a long time for me to get in to. I started it and read a few chapters and then stopped for a couple days. But of course I have that rule about finishing every book I start, so I picked it back up and flew through the last 80% of the book in one sitting. Yes, I just spent my entire day reading the rest of this book because 1) I don’t work until late tonight, and 2) There’s nothing better to do. So, like I said, it starts off slow, and honestly stays kind of slow. There are a few steamy moments where it picked up, but other than that, I felt like it took a lot of patience to read.
Clara was an interesting narrator. In more ways than one, I could relate to her. I saw myself two years ago, just getting ready to graduate high school, struggling with the whole college thing. I had everything planned out, I knew where I wanted to go, and then bam!, everything changed and I had to reevaluate my future. It’s stressful, it’s scary, and it’s intimidating. Life is full of decisions, which sucks because I have a hard time making decisions, so I completely understood some of Clara’s struggles. I also know what it’s like to believe in a religion and have people question you for it, especially the whole ‘no sex before marriage’ thing. I am very unappealing to a lot of guys for that reason. Clara learned a lot of the same lessons I learned at seventeen.
I really felt sorry for Clara having to deal with her scars. I’m sure it was quite disheartening every time someone stared at her scars or made a comment about them. However, I think she was way too self-conscious about them and let them dictate so many decisions in her life. I’m not sure how I would deal with having my face scarred, but every time Clara made a dumb decision because of her scars, or made a silly, petty comment about them, it made me want to slap her and say at least you are alive. But I guess that was part of the whole character arc, her coming to terms with them and yadda yadda. I understood it, it just annoyed me slightly.
Elias sounded like the kind of guy I need in my life, and I hated how Clara took advantage of that. I understood her desires and wanting more, but wow, I have never known that kind of devotion and would love to experience it. However, I think Elias wanted way more commitment than was needed at his age. Way too soon. Way too young. I agreed with Rhodes – experience is important. And speaking of Rhodes, I loved him for about two seconds. Okay, more like five minutes, but still. I felt like he moved way too fast. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll see…just read it.
I disliked how slow the book was and how I got a little bored at times, but I really do love the message. It’s a great book for high schoolers to read because of all the lessons Clara learns. She learns about over-commitment as well as under-commitment. She learns about staying true to her beliefs. She learns the difference between head vs. heart, and about decision-making between what you want and what your loved ones want. Although the book wasn’t outstanding, it was interesting and made me tear up once or twice. It probably had to do with how much I related to Clara, but I liked this book.
Favorite Quote: “I love that idea that someone else’s normal is an adventure for me. I love it when I can live somewhere long enough that the adventurous part of a new place begins to feel like every day.”
*I read and reviewed and ARC edition of the novel – if anything is misquoted in comparison to the published version, please let me know.