Monday 24 August 2015

Book Review: Love Defined by Leila Tualla

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

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AD* | In their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends expect an uncomplicated transition to adulthood... but learn they all still have some growing up to do.

Alex Makapulo is facing a crisis of faith.

Raised a Catholic, Alex is considering becoming a member of her best friend Jack Page’s church - against her family’s wishes - but she can’t quite take the final step of baptism. Jack loves Alex and doesn’t understand her hesitation, and Alex wonders if Jack’s love is a blessing or a distraction to test her religious conviction.

Lori Hanson embarks on the trip of a lifetime.

For her twenty-second birthday, Lori’s grandfather presents her with a summer vacation in England. While preparing for her adventure, she meets British musician Colin Watson online and quickly falls for him. They plan to hook up when she lands in London, but her grandfather forbids it. Due to complicated family dynamics, Lori must regretfully comply with his wishes, though she vows never to forgive him.

Andy Taylor is looking for love in all the wrong places.

When Andy runs into an old crush, she decides she wants a more meaningful relationship with sexy Miles Webber. But when she confides in Alex, her friend warns her Miles only wants her for sex. Andy becomes angry and devises a reckless plan to distract Alex’s attention from her relationship. Things don’t go quite as she expected, though, and Andy is left facing a crushing moral dilemma.

As the summer unfolds, three young women learn that love and faith go hand in hand, not everything is black and white, and sometimes in a fast-paced world, you have to slow down, breathe a little, and find your own definition of love.

Love Defined by Leila Tualla book cover

For a short book, there was a lot of content being crammed in.

As you can probably tell from the blurb above, Love Defined contains three distinct stories all rolled up into one. It would have been interesting to have three books covering the same events from each girl's point of view, but I did enjoy the existing format even if it was a bit rushed and confusing at times.

I really liked the concept of the book. Because when you think about it, how would you define love?

The OED defines love as 'a strong feeling of affection'. But love isn't that easy to define. Love means different things to different people, as proved by the short quotes from the girls at the beginning of each new chapter. And for that reason, the inclusion of the quotes was a really nice idea.

Content-wise, I was going into this book virtually blind. I thought it was just another pretty standard YA - I didn't realise it had such a strong Christian focus. Now that's not a problem for me, being a Christian myself, but it would have been nice to have had a bit of forewarning.

And I had to wonder, are there really that many young people out there like Alex and Jack, who are so devoted to their faith? Even taking into account that they live in America's Bible Belt, some of Alex's actions seemed a bit forced and melodramatic to me.

So having said that, Alex is definitely the character I liked the least. I admired her conviction and her belief, but she was just too stubborn at times. I genuinely felt for the others, realising how much of a task it would be to get her to admit her feelings for Jack.

Lori's story also annoyed me a bit. Would her grandfather really have behaved like that? I was really rooting for Lori and Colin all along but the way their story ended was really unsatisfactory for me. Though I did like Lori's unexpected friendship with Emma - I think she could definitely have been incorporated into more of the story.

Listening to a tourist's description of London was also quite entertaining, though to be fair the author did a good job of avoiding all those horrible cliché British stereotypes (except for Colin's name, I mean how many young guys do you know called Colin?)

So by far Andy's was the story that interested me the most. I feel like there's a lot more to it than the author was letting on, like the reasons for her behaving the way that she did. They are partly touched on but aren't fully dealt with, and the same can be said for the decision she eventually makes at the end of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book and finding out the girl's stories - it's a good, clean YA book that also manages to deal with some much deeper issues. So whether or not you're religious, I recommend this book to fans of YA literature.

Rating: 3 stars

Love Defined is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading Love Defined? Let me know in the comments below!

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