Published by Balzer & Bray on October 1, 2013
Amazon • Indiebound • Goodreads
For fans of Sarah Dessen and John Green, How to Love is a breathtaking debut about a couple who falls in love . . . twice.
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he's never noticed that Reena even exists . . . until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears 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. Reena's gotten used to life without Sawyer, but just as suddenly as he disappeared, he turns up again. Reena wants nothing to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said his being back wasn't stirring something in her.
After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
Because there are some books you read for the pleasure of losing yourself totally, of becoming an entirely different person in a different time and a different reality. And there are some books you read to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, to see yourself reflected back from a new perspective.
I wasn’t prepared to see myself staring back at me in the form of Reena Montero.
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 life 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.
Full disclosure: this is going to be a very personal review from me, likely without even a hint of objectivity. Because I’ve been Reena. As you might know, I am a single mother. I became a mom much earlier than I intended to be, and I did have to put most of my plans on hold to raise a child by myself. So to say this book hit home is a pretty enormous understatement.
This book destroyed me.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been more emotional. I ran the gamut from sorrow to despair, to frustration to PISSED OFF. I might still be a little pissed, to be honest.
Katie Cotugno got a lot of things right. The bone deep exhaustion of a single mother, the constant worry, the unending juggling act of trying to work full time, while still going to school and trying to raise a child without asking too much help from your family. The shame and the disappointment from your family, from your friends, and from everyone who wanted better from you. The resentment and the guilt tempered with the joy and wonder and absolute devotion you feel toward your child.
And most importantly, the armor you have to forge to get through those first few years without shattering under the weight of responsibility and fear and despair.
I identified with Reena so much, in both the Before and After points of view. The heady enormity of first love that eclipses every single thing in your life. That spark that, even in the After–after the worst kind of heartbreak–lingers, lives dormant under your skin just waiting to be ignited again.
A baby before my seventeenth birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still just the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.
I know Reena. I was Reena. And I wanted better for her.
I won’t go into the spoilery details of why How to Love threw me into a rage, but somewhere along the line it shifted from a story about how Sawyer left Reena to raise a baby by herself, to a story about how it wasn’t Sawyer’s fault.
For me, Sawyer was never redeemed. He never made an effort, or seemed penitent. He just slipped back into Reena’s and Hannah’s life like he belonged there, without having to earn his place at the table. I’m pretty sure he never actually said sorry, without an excuse immediately following it.
And uh… yeah, I may have been projecting just a teeeensy bit of my own issues onto a fictional character, but I was what you might call a Rage Monster for most of the last half.
That being said, I think–my issues not withstanding–How to Love is a beautifully written book with strong characters (some stronger than others *cough*), and an important story about what life looks like after the teen pregnancy.
This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.