Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading: How To Love by Katie Cotugno

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just Finished Reading: How To Love by Katie Cotugno

How To Love
by Katie Cotugno
To be published by Balzer + Bray
on October 1, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
Summary of the book from publisher: 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?
My take: This book was completely the opposite of what I expected. I saw "Alloy Entertainment" and "girl who gets pregnant in high school" and was ready for some frothy, drama-filled story.  How To Love wasn't like that at all. Beautifully and subtly written, with a literary feel, the book is a story about a girl's blind love for a boy, a love which completely derails her plans and dreams. It's also a story about a boy who isn't ready to be a boyfriend and certainly not ready to be a father.

Reena doesn't have the luxury of not being ready. Once she's decided to raise her baby, she has to resign herself to a new life that was not at all what she'd been planning. How To Love is told completely from Reena's point of view, alternating glimpses of her life "Before" and "After." At first I assumed that these designations meant before and after the baby, but they could really be before and after she fell in love with Sawyer, before and after her life changed completely, before and after she lost her innocence, both literally and figuratively. I loved Reena and also wanted to shake her half the time, so I'd say she's a realistically portrayed teenager.

Sawyer is much more of an enigma. The reader gets little to no insight into what's going on inside his head. He's the polar opposite of those dreamy YA book boys with the dreamy blue/turquoise/green eyes and all the right smooth words. Sawyer abandons Reena for the most implausible of reasons (this was the only thing about the book that didn't ring true to me) and then, to compound that, never calls Reena afterwards, never texts her, and finds out about his daughter only secondhand. Then he still doesn't call or text or send money. Sawyer was a hard character to like, which intrigued me, because rather than try to make me swoon over him, this book just put him out there, flaws and all.

When Sawyer unexpectedly comes back into Reena's life, she has to come to terms with his abandonment, her feelings for him, her family's disapproval, and her own lost dreams. To me, How to Love felt more like a documentary about teenage pregnancy than the reality show I was expecting. The book doesn't judge the characters or try to influence the way the reader feels about them. So I think that different readers will come out of the story feeling many different ways about the characters, their choices, and the story's ending. If you've read the book, let me know what you thought!

30 comments:

  1. Pst, I think the release date is 2013 :)

    Anywho, I've seen tons of reviews with varying ratings so it's nice to be only seeing positive ones today so I've somewhat made up my mind that I am going to try this. I love deep contemps even though I really love light ones lately.

    Great review, Jen! <33

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    1. What? It isn't 2012??
      *runs to flip calendar pages*
      Look forward to hearing what you think -- this book would be fun to discuss...

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  2. I know a lot of people were excited about this one but I don't know, it just doesn't grab me even though you're saying it's more subtle than I would expect from Alloy Entertainment. I think the cover is pretty and I've read teenage pregnancy books before but it's just not happening.

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    1. I was a little nervous, because the summary made me think it was going to be an NA angst-fest, but it was subtle and well-written...

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  3. I absolutely fell in love with this story... granted I brought some of my personal life into it while reading, but isn't that always how it goes. I'm so ecstatic that you loved it as much as I did. It makes me happy to see people enjoying it. The writing was amazing and I just ended up really loving Reena so much and I want to talk with everyone all about it LOL

    Great review Jen!

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  4. oh i havent heard about this but it sounds like something i would enjoy!!

    Emily; afternoonbookery.blogspot.com x

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  5. Nice review! I have been reading several good reviews on it so I know I need to get to it soon.

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  6. I really want to know your true feelings about this one! I agree that it's beautifully written story, and I love the way you describe the before and after as not just before pregnancy/after. I too wanted to scream at Reena and Sawyer at times too, especially for her to stay away from him in the before. But I also connected really well to those feelings of first love. Despite everything, I fell for these two and wanted it to work for them. Its funny because a LOT of people don't like Sawyer, and for some reason I really like that the way he's 'put out there flaws and all.' It made him more real. I agree that leaving without any communication for that long is a little crazy, but I do think they were destined for destruction if he had stayed. He needed to get his head on straight. I like the approach of this book that it doesn't judge, and it doesn't try to bring the message that these two need each other to survive, or that they fix each other. But they love each other and have to make the choice whether it's worth it to be together, despite all the hurt between them. Thoughtful review, Jen!

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    1. My feelings are so conflicted. There were things I loved and things I found incredibly frustrating, but those frustrating things also seemed realistic to me. I'd love to chat on email about this with you!!

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  7. I think that's interesting you found this had more of a documentary feel than a reality show feel. That definitely speaks volumes to the book's literary merits. I just cannot imagine I'd be okay with this story's topic and the eventual return of the love interest. I guess I'll need to think about whether I do want to read this one or not. It does sound interesting, though. And I like that it's unapologetic in its characterization.

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    1. It was interesting to me that it really focused on her feelings for Sawyer rather than the whole "pregnant at 17" thing, which made it feel less sensationalistic than it could have.

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  8. I thought I'd hate Sawyer...but I really like him. I think I'm reading into why he left differently than you (and would love to discuss). Great review, I'm rereading HTL and you're insight is definitely giving something to think about.

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

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    1. I definitely didn't like him, but I felt for him. I mean, who is really ready to be a parent when you are just a kid yourself?

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  9. This is my next read, Jen. I'm so glad you loved it. I'm just worried that I might not be able to forgive Sawyer that easily. Eeep.

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  10. I have this one on my WL. Hope to buy it soon as it sounds amazing.

    Andreea

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  11. Loved Reena, but me and Sawyer had some issues :)

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  12. I've read a couple of reviews and feel that this one would aggravate me due to Sawyer. I'm not crazy about contemporary so will skip this one but do find the discussion around it interesting. Glad the writing was beautifully done.

    My Friends Are Fiction

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    1. If you think he'd aggravate you, you are probably right :)

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  13. It seems like everyone is on the fence with Sawyer. I kind of appreciate that the story isn't glossed over and he becomes the perfect guy or we find out he had some deep dark secret that made him leave.

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    1. He seemed real to me, but at the same time, I wanted him to step up and learn from his mistakes.
      And we DO find out a deep dark secret and that didn't work for me. That part seemed really contrived. And IMO the secret wasn't enough to have kept him from any responsibility for his daughter. I mean, if he'd been in a coma or something, I'd give him a pass.

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  14. After reading so many praising review for this one today, I feel like I'm the only person who didn't enjoy it. Sawyer was a jerk and Reena was a pushover in my opinion, but you brought up a great point, they both were still teenagers and handling the issues the best they could. But I still feel like they could've done so much better. Anyways, I really enjoyed seeing the different opinion on this book and I'm glad that you enjoyed it more than you expected. great review, Jen!

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    1. I thought he was a HUGE jerk right up to the end of the book. At the same time, I was happy that the story didn't try to make everything all romantic.

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  15. I'm really excited to read this one, but I'm also really scared... I have so many OPINIONS.

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  16. I liked that Reena was portrayed as a typical "lost" teenager but most of the time, she infuriated me. And Sawyer! He really isn't one admirable book boyfriend. In fact, he isn't one of my book boyfriends. Lol. Great review! ;)

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