Review: Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry

Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry
Publication date: Sept. 1, 2015
Publisher: AW Teen
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC from publisher via Netgalley (Thanks!)
Summary: 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 & terrifying--an acceptance letter from Columbia Univ. But it turns out her scars aren't as fixable as she hoped, & when her boyfriend presses for a forever commitment, she has second thoughts about NY. Then Rhodes, a student teacher in her English class, forces her to acknowledge her writing talent, & 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. 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? (

The Good
I want to preface this review by saying that the day before reading Has To Be Love, I read Hello Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith. That book gave me all the feels and I read this the day after, not realizing the similar storylines (girl in a serious relationship throughout high school and going away for college and what that means for the couple) and it definitely affected my reading experience.

But there were some unique factors about Has To Be Love that I enjoyed. For one, the story takes place in Knik, Alaska! That was a new location (at least for me). Then Clara is someone who’s been counting down to the end of high school for a multitude of reasons. As a young girl, she survived a vicious bear attack and has the scars on her face and body to prove it. She was told that once she was older she could reach out to a specialist to have them fixed. And once she does, she knows she’ll feel ready to move onto her next dream — going away for college. But not just any college. She wants to go and was accepted to Columbia University, which is her mom’s alma mater.

For Clara, I don’t think the crossroads was necessarily college or not. Or even this guy or that guy. I think it was more of an internal crossroads. Could she accept her scars? Did she know what she wanted? And that applied to her education, for herself personally and even religion. Another interesting facet to the story is that she’s Mormon. I don’t know much about the religion but it plays a big role here in who she dates and how far she’s willing to go in her relationships. It’s a point of conflict for her and a realistic one at that.

Two other things I liked? Her best friend (they have great honest phone calls) and her dad (he’s not just some character in the background but someone the author shows as being a huge part of her life).

(Major) Reservations
As I mentioned, there are two guys involved here — the one she’s known her whole life and is 110% devoted to her and the other, Rhodes, is new to town, older and a student teacher at her high school. The situation between Clara and Rhodes just felt wrong. I mean, granted it’s supposed to because he’s her teacher. But it was just very intense right off the bat but yet, I didn’t necessarily feel any chemistry between them at all. He just came onto her strongly and she was understandably curious about him. But he still seemed like a fairly nice guy? Then it went down this really uncomfortable path that I don’t think added anything substantial to Clara’s journey. To me, the conflict was never about the guys or even the college, it was about her and how she saw herself. The book would’ve been better without a love triangle.

Do I recommend?
I like the types of stories Jolene Perry chooses to write about because there tends to be something different or unique. But of the three I’ve read — this one, The Summer I Found You and Stronger Than You Know — the latter is by far her strongest and most moving novel. So while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, I would highly recommend that one.


  1. Wow going from Alaska to NYC would be quite the change!! This sounds interesting, I hadn't heard of it before. I don't know if I like the teacher/romance/instalove aspect, but I do like the friendship and parental relationship you mentioned!! Great review!

  2. What an interesting setting! I don't think I've actually read a novel set in Alaska, so that would be something new for sure. I also appreciate the fact that the conflict is more internal, more about who the character is and what she's capable of. I'm sorry to hear about your major reservations, but I'm glad you liked some aspects of it!

  3. Enjoyed your review, Rachel! Perry's The Summer I Found You resonated with me in a big way and was actually one of my favorites on 2014. So I was super excited for this one. Unfortunately... I just had too many issues with it. I enjoyed the unique setting and some of the secondary characters, but I had zero connection with Clara. I agree that the real conflict was internal (not boys or colleges) but the waffling back and forth and refusal to make *any* decision - instead just letting things happen and then reacting - was very frustrating. I have The Stronger You Know and I hope to read that one soon and be reminded of what I love about Perry's writing.

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books


with love,