August 16, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Has to be Love by Jolene Perry

Has to Be Love
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Skyspace through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2015

Get a copy here!

When I first saw this book, I thought of Has to be Love as a cute teen’s romance book which funny as well. Well, modified letters with those animated doodles kind of implying that impression to me. When it’s not really true, it turns out not wrong either. This book is funny on certain scene and sweet romance does exist somewhere on the story but the entirety of the book is complicated and frustrating at some points.

The lead female character is Clara Wesley, the girl with scars on her face as the evidence of her survival from bear attack that had not only half-wrecked her life but also made her mother gone forever. Clara was barely able to move on with her life as the ghosts from her past keep slipping into her every step. No matter how many times and how many people telling her to see past the scars, it’s not something you could easily overlook when you had to see it every day in the mirror, you had to deal with people wincing every time they talk to you, had to deal with glances and stares that though some are innocent yet still there’s a trace of judgment behind them. But God is fair because not only Clara still got a father who loves and supports her wholly, but also she’s got a boyfriend who loves her unconditionally, sincerely, and deeply.

Elias was the dream boy every girl wished to have. He’s kind, sweet, charming, undeniably lovely, and at the age 17, he could put any grown up men to shame with his gentlemanly demeanor. Elias was full of responsibility and careful with his every move. Elias was the safe haven Clara could always run to, except Clara didn’t want to be ‘safe’ if it meant missing out all the challenges that calling to her; all the challenges and risky life out there that also meant living up a dream that she had for a very long time already.

Entered Rhodes, the guy from the part of the world where challenges and dreams were available for Clara on the same plate. While Elias represents a safe option with peace and easy life in a small town of Knik, Alaska; Rhodes represents a challenging option with longing dreams and possibly more intriguing future at an Ivy League school in the big city of New York. Clara didn’t know what to choose as her heart was torn between staying on Elias’ safe cocoon and jumping over the cliff following Rhodes.

Clara’s character is quite frustrating for me. I do understand her wanting to chase after her dream to leave for Columbia University. I could understand why Clara probably would choose her dream in NY over settling down with Elias in Alaska. I really do. In fact, I’m not judging her for wanting to step out of her comfort zone. After all if we stay too long in our comfort zone, it would make it not comforting later on.

What I couldn’t relate is that Clara feels the need to second-guessing what has given to her, everything because of her scar. I totally understand that it must not be easy to overlook her scar, I said this before. But what ‘having a scar’ had to do with second-guessing her boyfriend-for-years’ sincere intention? More like there’s a ‘distraction’ coming between them at a perfectly wrong timing.

Has to be Love tries to show us that sometimes to be able to find the right path we have to go through the wrong ones. And it doesn’t necessarily make us a sinner, it makes us a learner. Clara might be the one to blame for the hurts of people who got involved in her ‘decision-making’ process. But it taught her that sometimes what she thinks is good for her isn’t always good for her. I love it that in the end everything finally falls to its places. I could see Clara learns her lessons as she comes to term with her flaws, apologizes for her mistakes, and accepts the consequences of her every action. I might dislike her for her wrong steps, but she manages to save me from hating her as she shows us that somehow inside, she’s still the girl with faith, belief, and pride stronger than most girls her age. I like this side of her and I’m glad she doesn’t entirely forget that about her.

Though the pace is quite slow in the beginning, I like how the plot gives me the alternating feelings from frustrated, understanding, resenting, to accepting of the characters. Clara’s character perfectly pictures what being a teenager feels like along with the flaws, mistakes, and imperfect decisions. Elias’s proves that even at younger age there’s nothing impossible to feel as unconditional love. While Rhodes’ represents that sometimes other people’s perfect life isn’t always perfect for us. I love it that the side characters play roles as important as the main characters making the chemistry between the characters much stronger and the story becomes somehow complete.

Even though this book isn’t exactly my best favorite, I enjoy the realistic feels this book gives. Especially the most important message that this book tries to relay to its readers, that your scars, visible or not, don’t exactly define who you are, unless you let them be.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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