Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno (ARC)

How To Love by Katie Cotugno
Balzar + Bray (a HarperTeen imprint), 389 pages
US Release Date: October 1, 2013
Format/Source: ARC, via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenge: SARC 2013, Contemporary Challenge

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.
------------------------------goodreads summary
Notable Quote
…both of us watching Sawyer just like we used to, back when watching Sawyer never felt like something that hurt.
How To Love was one of my most anticipated reads this year, because the moment I heard about it I swear was the moment I started hearing how brilliant it was. And when you read the synopsis, you know it’s one of those books that could break you and make you love harder.

I think what made this book such a fantastic one was the writing. And not that it’s lyrical or beautiful – it is, though I’ve read a few authors who can wrap words a bit better. But there’s a certain realness to all of Katie’s writing. The details she includes are touching and tender in really subtle ways that you don’t even realize are wrapping the story right around your heart. There’s a singular line on one of the pages a little over halfway in that just struck me breathless (“So many fathers and daughters.”) because of its profound simplicity. Five words, five shatteringly simple words – but in their context, there’s a weight and a meaning and a clarity in them to just speak to your soul.

The other thing that rocketed this to the top of my favourites list is the exploration of all kinds of love. Not just the gooey, heart-swelling kind, or the complex, heart-being-squeezed-to-death way. That’s there, but so is the messy kind, the complicated kind, the love that you’re not certain is really love, and the love that you know is love even though it in no way resembles it. There’s friendship love, family love, respect love, tough love, shrouded love…it’s all here, in so may facets, and it’s all wonderful.

The general plot of this book is enough to impact anyone’s heart too, even if it didn’t have the little parts that shatter you. When you first read about it, and then start finding out how everything came to be…it’s gripping and dramatic and a roller coaster of everything you love to hate and hate to love. You can’t help falling for Sawyer even though you know from the beginning he left her; and you can’t help loving Aaron even though you know Renna’s love for Sawyer can’t possibly have gone away.

The family is what broke my heart. I love the element of family in YA books, and this is no exception to those who do it fantastically. There’s such a variation in relationships, from strained ones to supportive ones, from far to close, from the ones you know mean well versus the ones who don’t deserve anything. I could feel Soledad’s watchful eye and her supportive pat on the shoulder just as much as the coldness and judgment of Reena’s father.

I’m not certain I anticipated how sad this book would be, how many tragedies of all kinds of sizes there would be. There are the obvious ones that we can guess, and then some surprise huge ones that are enough to make you gasp…and then there are smaller ones, the innocuous ones that you breeze by and then stop a few seconds later as you try to process what exactly it means, how it will affect everything else.

I feel like I’m painting this book like it’s a sob-fest downer, but I don’t mean to. I actually never did cry. I felt every single emotion I think I could possibly have the capacity for, sure, but no tears. And that includes all the happy ones too – the ones of a budding romance you’re so certain is right, the loyalty of friends and that push into a direction you know is right.

How To Love is a book worthy of it’s title, of all the meanings and nuances love can mean. The highs, lows, and dips in between are all here, and I don’t think there’s a better story to take us along for the ride.
5 stars
and so many more, with so much love


  1. I think you've convinced me that I really should pick up this book soon. It sounds like it's a more intense book than the synopsis lets on, especially as it seems to include about every single type of love known to man. I'm so excited to finally pick this one up, thank you for the fantastic review!

  2. I LOVE this novel! It took me by surprise but it's one of new favorites. How Reena's family treats her is deplorable, but I totally understand at the same time too. Great review <3

    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books


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