Review: Belonging by Karen Ann Hopkins

Karen Ann Hopkins
Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: April 30, 2013

From the back cover:

I left everything I knew behind.

But it was worth it. He was worth it.

No one thought an ordinary girl like me would last two minutes living with the Amish, not even me. There are a lot more rules and a lot less freedom, and I miss my family and the life I once had. Worst of all, Noah and I aren’t even allowed to see each other. Not until I’ve proven myself.

If I can find a way to make it work, we’ll be NOAH & ROSE

together forever.

But not everybody believes this is where I belong.

I’ve never been particularly interested in the Amish culture, but when Karen Ann Hopkins’ first book, TEMPTATION, was released last year, I was intrigued by the story of an ordinary, outspoken teen girl falling for a quiet, Amish boy. I felt the premise brought a fresh perspective to young adult romance, one that was rife with conflict — both internal and external — and the book didn’t disappoint. At the end, I was invested enough in Noah and Rose’s romance to look forward to BELONGING.

In BELONGING, Rose is living the Amish lifestyle, trying hard to fit in and adhere to all their strict rules because she firmly believes that making the drastic change will allow her and Noah to be together for good. Ms. Hopkins brings the Amish culture to life, and Rose’s struggle to change who she is to be Amish not only on the outside but on the inside as well, are extremely well done.

However, while TEMPTATION had all the compelling moments of first love, BELONGING doesn’t seem to go anywhere for most of the book. It’s all about how Rose needs to change, needs to be perfect, and fit into the Amish way, and meanwhile, Noah sacrifices nothing. He appears completely selfish throughout–his only thought revolves around getting Rose accepted into the church so that they can get married and start sleeping together, and unfortunately, this is his main drive for the entire book. It became very frustrating for me as a reader, and also made me start questioning whether he was really in love with Rose or just in lust.

I also wasn’t thrilled with the addition of the love triangle. BELONGING had plenty of opportunity to provide real, emotional conflict solely between Noah and Rose without adding in another love interest for her. While I understand the reasoning for doing so — it’s making Rose choose what kind of life she wants for herself — I just didn’t feel it was necessary, and it made Rose seem wishy-washy to me.

The funny thing is, though, even with all the reasons that I disliked this book, there was something about it that compelled me to keep reading. I had to know what happened. And I still want to know how Rose and Noah’s story will wrap up in the third book. So, kudos to Karen Ann Hopkins for writing something that invests the reader even when they’re not liking the direction. That takes talent.  I anxiously await the conclusion to Rose and Noah’s story!


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