Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

23 October, 2013 Reviews 13 comments

Review: How to Love by Katie CotugnoHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Series: Standalone
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1st 2013
Pages: 389
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Swap
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

From Goodreads

Before I begin, a hearty THANK YOU to Christina over at A Reader of Fictions who sent me with this book.

How to Love made me me feel the whole rainbow of feels, Katie Cotugno’s writing is gorgeous. She captures the poignant details of a moment with prose that reads like poetry and wraps itself around your heart, tugging it back and forth.

The hideous thing is this: I want to forgive him. Even after everything, I do. A baby before my seventeenth birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.

Don’t lie, that gave you feels.

The story is told in alternating timelines that work like chocolate and peanut butter. Before tells the story of how Reena and Sawyer fell in love and the After shows Sawyer’s return and the shockwaves he sends through the life Reena put together in his wake. This sets up an incredible amount of reader tension, you see how sweet they were but always know it’s going to go horribly wrong. It kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how everything was going to unfold, desperately flipping pages to find out.

Reena is a fantastic character. She’s smart, funny and tragic in a way that’s wistful as opposed to martyred. BeforeReena is a shy, slightly naive overachiever on track to graduate early and dreaming of the day she can head off into the world. AfterReena has become skittish and guarded, and turned her focus to creating a life for herself and her daughter. I loved that while she has an undeniable weakness for Sawyer, she doesn’t excuse and forgive him. She sticks to her guns and doesn’t let him forget that he screwed up (well, mostly, but everyone’s allowed a slip or two, right?)

Sawyer, on the other hand, is a hot mess. Initially portrayed as an enigma, as the story goes on you come to realize that he’s a troubled kid with mad parental issues. It’s annoying that you never really find out why beyond the standard ‘my parents don’t think I’m good enough’ sort of deal, but this isn’t ultimately his story, so I’ll let it go. AfterSawyer is all about redemption. While he never quite reaches an appropriate level of remorse, he’s working to prove he is a changed and worthy person.

The other characters are mostly bit players, but that doesn’t stop them from seeming like real people wandering in and out of the book. Shelby is hands down my favorite. She’s the snarky, no-nonsense best friend who stands in as the voice of reason when Reena gets dragged into Sawyer’s orbit and I wish she were real so I could stalk her into hanging out with me. Favorite quote:

“What about you, Sawyer? Can I offer you a strong alcoholic beverage to help take the edge off of being yourself?”

Their daughter, Hannah, isn’t a huge presence in the book which is a little strange looking back on it because it seems like she should be an enormous part of the plot. I like that she’s not, she could easily be a fall back plot device but the way Cotugno does it is far more layered. While Hannah’s a big part of the picture, the real story is about Reena’s emotional journey, accepting the past and beginning to hope for the future.

Tl;dr: How To Love is thoughtful, sad, and beautiful, absolutely worth checking out if that’s your sort of thing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go obsessively search Katie Cortugo’s blog for any mention of WIPs.

Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.

13 Responses to “Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno”

    • Meg Morley

      It’s so lovely, that quote is one of a whole list of them that I wanted to include (seriously, I considered making this review a list of quotes, but that didn’t seem helpful.) I highly recommend picking it up if you get the chance.

  1. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    Oh hey, that was fast! Also, you liked it, so that’s good.

    I gave this one away unread because it hit way too many of my dealbreakers, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to DNF it, because PARTS of it are so good. I just wasn’t in the mood for all of that. Also, I can see why that quote at the beginning has appeal, but I really don’t like it, so I think I made the right choice. For me. But I’m glad you liked it so much!
    Christina (A Reader of Fictions) recently posted…Lessons Learned Formatting Old Posts for WordPress, or, the Evolution of a BloggerMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      My reading speed is equivalent to the Road Runner 🙂

      There were a bunch of things in here that I could see driving you crazy but I related to it all over the place (except the teen mom bit, thank god, no offense to teen moms but I can barely take care of my cat.) Thanks again for sending it to me!

  2. Shelly

    I wanted to read this one for a long time and I’m so happy you liked it! I am still iffy about the topic because I’ve never really liked books about teen pregnancy but this one seems too interesting to pass up! Shelby seems like an awesome character (and it isn’t just because of the similar names shh) but anyways, this book seems so interesting. Awesome review! 😀
    Shelly recently posted…Shelly Rambles: CommentingMy Profile

    • Meg Morley

      I know what you mean, books with kids are iffy for me but while Hannah’s a big part of the story, she’s not a huge part of the plot (if that makes any kind of sense.) What I’m trying to say is, don’t let the teen pregnancy angle turn you away, that part is barely touched on at all.

  3. Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

    I love this novel so much it hurts. I first at really didn’t like Sawyer’s character but then I liked the transformed Sawyer. I also liked how they were both equally screwed up and how they gravitated towards each other. I just want to hug anyone who loves this book 🙂
    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books recently posted…Shadow and Bone (Review)My Profile

    • Meg Morley

      *hugs* I am super excited to see what Katie Cotugno does next, I love her style and would definitely give her next book a shot.

      I know what you mean about before Sawyer. I had a soft spot because I more or less dated him in high school so I kept reading like ‘Oh honey, I’ve been there.’

  4. Ellis

    Can I just say how much I enjoy YOUR writing style? Because I really really do. DON’T YOU DARE referring to your reviews as TL;DR. Don’t you dare.
    I have been wary of this book because the reviews have been mixed. Many mention that it might break the book if you don’t like the characters. I never know what to do with that.
    True story: I can’t look at this title without hearing the Lil’ Wayne song. That’s what you get when your brother is one of his most loyal fanboys and thinks breakfast is the ideal time to show that appreciation by turning up the volume until your ears start to bleed. We love him so much.
    SHE DOESN’T EXCUSE AND FORGIVE HIM? That’s amazing! Wow, this has just made it from “interested” to “WANTWANTWANT” territory. How have I not read this already?
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  5. Adriana33

    I loved this book so much! I read it in less than 24 hours! I am going to suggest it to everybody. I think Katie should make a second book, whether it be a sequel to this book or just another book in general! I truly fell in love with this book and got very connected to the characters of the book. I was continuously hoping Reena would end up with Sawyer throughout the book! Loved it

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