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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Release Date: Oct. 1, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Pages: 389
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
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.

I was about three paragraphs into the first chapter of Katie Cotugnos fantastic debut How to Love when I thought, Oh, I see its going to be one of those books.  And then I canceled all of my plans for the rest of the day, because it was indeed one of those books the ones that compel you to read and read and ignore everything else.  What an enormous pleasure it was to read these words!  What an enormous pleasure to recommend that you read them too!

In theory, Reena Monteros story isnt original.  The good girl with the bright future falls for the broken boy with the checkered present (and that broken boys been the one in her heart since she was old enough to heart boys).  And the consequences?  Pregnant and apparently abandoned at 16.  However, the unique and interesting part here is that we get to find out what happened then and what happens now between Reena and her prodigal bad boy Sawyer.  Via alternating chapters of Before and After, we see Reena and Sawyer fall in love, fall apart, and fall into one anothers radar once more. 

Reenas voice is so, so rich and delicious, both Before and After.  She is sweeter and (unsurprisingly) more naive Before, but this absolutely works especially in duet with the bitter After.  I found myself bullying the highlighting feature on my e-reader, rereading passages and letting the words linger under my fingers and before my eyes.  This is one of those novels that I would love to listen to in the audiobook format.  There is a lyrical quality to the writing that I bet would sound even better out loud.  I am delighted to find out about Katie Cotugno with her first novel, but I am bummed I cant read 57 more books by her right in this instant.

And Reena, dear Reena.  You dont have to be pregnant at 16 to understand how she feels.  You dont have to be from her town to know what its like to want to run screaming and flailing from your hometown.  There is a universality to her story that keeps you coming back, keeps you from getting too angry at her Teenage Decisions.  While were on the subject of Teenage Decisions, let us not forget about baby daddy Sawyer.  As a card-carrying grown-up, its easy for me to say that I liked After Sawyer much better than Before Sawyer.  Maybe Teenage Jessica wouldve found his hotness and persona to be mysterious and (duh) hot, but Grown-Up Jessica wants him to quit crying about it already.  After Sawyer, though hes a man trying to make amends, and thats something worth reading about.

This is a definite must-read for all fans of contemporary YA romance, especially for fans of My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick or The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.  If youre looking for a story where you can fall deep and get lost in a sea of beautiful words, Id say you need to learn How to Love.


  1. I loved this book so much. I thought it tackled a lot of complicated emotions and did it in a way that seemed very genuine. Great review!

    Kate @ Ex Libris