How to Love, by Katie Cotugno
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Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Length: 389 pages
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, and Audible
Times Read: infinite
Rating: Mad love for this book
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.
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.
What I Liked: This is a really divisive book, especially in reference to the male protagonist. People seem to either love him or hate him, with very little in-between. Me? I LOVE Sawyer. I love Reena. I love everything about this book.
Me, every time I finish reading this
It’s an issue-heavy book, but it’s written so beautifully that I always fly through it. Katie Cotugno uses a “before and after” style, and that can be hard to pull off. Usually in books like these, I care more about one storyline and just want to read that. This one, though, is so compelling in both sections that I can’t wait to get back to each of them. There’s major character growth, finding out you’re pregnant at 16, loss, changing friendships, and falling in love with the same person, twice.
Reena is a strong girl who is not here for your bullshit, but she’s got her own demons. She keeps everything in and refuses to be vulnerable. She screws things up with her friends, and she has a really tough relationship with her father. Reena grew up the good Catholic daughter, and I can relate. I grew up in a very religious household with bible study and church every Sunday, youth group and lock-ins, forever and ever amen. So I expected that Reena’s dad wouldn’t react well to her pregnancy, and he definitely doesn’t. He hardly speaks to her in the after chapters, and I’m never really sure how he feels about Hannah, Reena and Sawyer’s daughter. Reena’s been paying penance for years, quietly taking care of the baby and attending classes at community college. Say what you will about Sawyer, but he shakes things up when he returns, and Reena stops sleepwalking through life.
Different Sawyer, same hotness level
Moving on to Sawyer–I loved him from the start, though I understand why many don’t. A lot of people think he’s totally dysfunctional, an asshole, a wannabe bad boy, a shady guy, a reckless and self-centered boyfriend. And he is. He is all of those things. But he’s also loving, sweet, thoughtful, and really, totally, confused. He’s messed up, and he does some messed up things, but when he comes back after his melodramatic three year jaunt around the country, he’s ready to be better. He wants to be a good dad, he wants to be there for Reena, he wants to put her first this time. He’s not perfect, he still makes some bad decisions, but he’s trying.
What I Didn’t: This is one of my all-time favorite books, so I don’t dislike much. It’s heavy and heartbreaking, intense and funny. Don’t skip this one just because you don’t like teen pregnancy stories–this one is so, so much more than that. As much as it’s about Reena and Sawyer having a baby, it’s really not. It’s about them growing up, making messes and learning to live with them or clean them up.
Final Thoughts: I’ve read this many, many times over the years, and it’s one of my most recommended titles. If you like contemporaries, romance, and don’t mind being punched in the feels a few times, this is a book for you. What Katie Cotugno does best is write messy and flawed characters, dysfunctional families, fucked up friendships, and unhealthy relationships. She doesn’t make everything neat and clean, she never ties up the ending perfectly. Characters are still flawed at the end, relationships are still hard. Messy is still messy, but I want to read about it anyway. I want to read about characters that are real, situations that actually happen, and in real life, people are never perfect. But whatever Katie writes, I will read, on release day, world without end.
Side note-I’ve read this in hardcover, on Kindle, and listened to the audiobook, and I highly recommend the audio. I’m super picky about readers, and this one is stellar. She fully performs the book, using different voices and accents, and acting out inflection and tone for every character.
Favorite Quotes: Confession–in my original post, I had 9 favorite quotes. I’ve edited here for brevity, but hit me up if you want more.
“Kissing him feels familiar but also new, a song they haven’t played on the radio in a really long time.”
“All I could manage to do was watch him from across the room and wish there was a way to capture him, to write him down.”
“I’m not your type.”
“Who cares? I hate my type. I want you.”
“I’m so hugely tired of carrying all of this inside me, all my guilt and anger and loneliness.”
Have you read How to Love? Did you love it or hate it? Are you team Sawyer or Team Literally Anybody Else?