Publisher: AW Teen
*Publisher approved request via Netgalley.
When I first read the blurb for Has to Be Love, my interest was immediately piqued because of what Clara had been through, and not only was I curious about how she was coping with that, but I wanted to see how she would handle everything else in her life. That interest stayed for the first chapter, but then my feelings toward Clara started to waver and I found myself a bit confused at times by the story. I wasn't sure what it was about exactly. I mean, what was conveyed in the blurb was sometimes not on my mind while I read because of some of the things Clara would think or say, especially when she was with her boyfriend Elias.
It seemed all Clara wanted to do was take their relationship to the next level, like her hormones was all over the place. Funny, because they're both of faith, and while Elias wanted to wait until marriage and Clara constantly stated that she wanted to do the same, she was always tempting Elias whenever they were alone together. She wanted more from him in general. Something different, but she wasn't quite sure what.
Her constant self-doubt and issues with her image frustrated me a lot too. I felt like instead of spending time seeking out a specialist who could "fix her", Clara should have considered seeing a psychiatrist or someone to help her mental and emotional state. I get that what happened to her was extremely devastating. Truly, I sympathize with her. I mean, she'd lost her mother during the bear attack and had been scarred beyond repair, but honestly, she spent a good chunk of the book in self-pity and it annoyed me how she used what happened to her as an excuse to not chase after her dreams and settle into a life of indecisiveness, rather than use it as a driving force to get out there and live.
The one thing I liked about the arrival of Rhodes was that his presence was a constant reminder to Clara that she wanted more than what she was settling for. While I didn't like their instant attraction, I could understand her risking her relationship with Elias for Rhodes. Elias was safe. They knew each other longer and he accepted Clara's scars, so she thought she should be with him because no one else would want her. Elias wasn't a bad guy, he loved her a lot. In fact, he was too perfect. And for that reason I felt just as suffocated with his character as Clara did. Not saying I liked Rhodes more and rooted for Clara to leave her boyfriend for him, but I could understand the appeal because Rhodes had a lot of experiences, he'd seen so much and was more spontaneous. But the biggest thing that attracted Clara to him was that he attended the university of her dreams, a school her deceased mother had attended as well, and Rhodes and Clara had more things in common. I had predicted what would happen between Clara and Elias, because she just wasn't ready for such a major commitment, but I was a bit surprised by the situation with Rhodes. It seemed somewhat incomplete in regards to his character.
Overall, I might not have fallen in love with the story or the characters, but it wasn't a bad read. I mean, yeah, Clara often made me want to pull my hair out with her ongoing doubts and those random scenes that depict her raging hormones (still makes no sense to me why this was part of the story), and for not being honest with herself. But in the end, I was happy that she'd finally made the right decision for her. Also, I love the setting. I can't remember the last book I read that's in Alaska so that alone was a plus for me. I like the state and would love to visit someday.