How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to LoveHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by: Balzer & Bray on October 1, 2013
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 389
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBook Details
Rating: ★★

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.

How to Love could have easily been a 4—or maybe even 5—star book, but there was one massive problem: Sawyer. Sawyer literally stole those stars one by one. POOF! GONE! He just chipped away at them every time he pulled a dickhead move that made me want to pummel his face in with rocks.

How to Love started out pretty strong for me. I had kind of a morbid interest in it, very similar to My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi. Teenage pregnancy? I was curious. I wanted all the details; I wanted to know exactly how/when/why it happened. But FYI, they never actually tell us how she got pregnant. NEVER. That’s what I wanted to know. We don’t know when it happened, or if they used a condom or not. All we know is that she woke up with morning sickness one day.

At first, I could really relate to Reena. She was the girl who loved quiet summers playing card games and hanging out with her best friend. But all around her, people were “moving on”. She lost her best friend to the drinking and partying scene. I could totally relate. Reena just wanted things to be the way they always were; she didn’t want things to change. She wasn’t interested in partying or any of that.

I wasn’t shy, exactly. That’s never what it was. I just didn’t know how to do this, is all, the clang and chatter of high school.

I had no friends in tenth grade. Okay, that’s dramatic. I had friends. I didn’t eat lunch alone on a toilet seat or anything. Mostly, I just didn’t eat lunch. I went to the library.

THAT WAS ME!!! I could totally relate.

But everything went to the dogs as soon as Sawyer stepped on the scene…

I feel like we were supposed to love Sawyer despite his faults. He was supposed to be the “bad boy” in high school who made mistakes, but then comes back and redeems himself. But I felt like I never had a reason to like Sawyer or forgive him, but I had so many reasons to hate him. Sawyer was not a nice guy. He was constantly drunk, on drugs, flirting with other girls, and dragging Reena to parties. Reena obviously hated parties, but she went along with him. And while he was out popping pills and getting drunk and hitting it up with other girls, she was hiding out in the kitchen desperately wanting to go home. EVERY TIME.

“We’ll just stop by for a minute,” he always said before we got there, but in the end a minute usually took an hour or more.

I didn’t want to, was the problem, and so I sat on the counter in any number of kitchens, drinking warm bear out of a red plastic cup and watching the minutes go by on the digital clock on the microwave, hoping no one said anything to me as they moved through the room, and wishing I was home watching reruns with Soledad. [..] Once, I brought a book and hid in the pantry to read it.

But you know what? She always gave in. She always continued to go with him, even if she really didn’t want to, and hid in pantries when she got there. So I slowly started to lose sympathy for her. How can I sympathize with a girl who puts herself through this crap? She could have told Sawyer she didn’t want to go. She could have dumped his pathetic, druggie ass. But no, she didn’t. She complains and fights with him, but she never breaks up with him. WHY??? As far as I saw, he had exactly zero redeeming qualities. He never had “nice” or “sweet” moments. He was always a royal jackass.

And when View Spoiler » , Sawyer wanted to take her out on a nice date to celebrate… But guess what… he said they had to make “a little stop” on the way.. SO HE COULD MEET WITH HIS DRUG DEALER!! And he freaking brought her along. What a dick move. That’s not a date.

And in an “after” chapter, when Reena finally confronted Sawyer for leaving her without even saying goodbye, guess what he said? He actually had the balls to try to pin it on her.

“You know, what I love about all this is how conveniently you forgot that you were on your way out, too, when I left. You told me every day.”

He’s basically saying it’s okay that he left her, because she was planning on leaving anyway… TO GO TO COLLEGE!!! That does not give him the right to just walk out without even saying goodbye. And Reena even forgives him for that because View Spoiler »

Long story short, Sawyer was a huge huge huge jerk, and he never did anything to make me like him. He never did nice things for Reena, he never had sweet moments. He was always high out of his mind or drunk or having sex with her. This is going to sound so “disapproving parent” of me, but he was a bad influence. He was encouraging her to do drugs and skip class. And I know some teenagers are like that, but the key thing here is that Reena didn’t want to do those things, and yet he kept pressuring her to. There was never a reason for Reena to like him.. she just did. It was pure lust, as far as I’m concerned. And on top of that, she had a great guy in the “after” chapters, but she ditched him to go running back to Sawyer. Why???

As Sawyer became more and more of a dick, he knocked stars off my rating. As Reena kept running back to him, I lost sympathy for her. At first I felt bad for her because Sawyer ran out on her… but now… honestly…. she kind of had it coming. She stayed with this guy when he was nothing but disrespectful to her. He was always a flaky boyfriend, so it’s no surprising that he just up and left one day.

I feel like How to Love has all the makings of a really good book. It’s well written, I like the alternating “before” and “after” chapters, and it’s an interesting story. But it is completely ruined by Sawyer. He was a horrible character and slowly made me detest the book. And since Reena kept running back to him, I started to detest her as well. She also had this really annoying habit of raging at Sawyer for being a dick, and then when he’d say “What’s wrong? Are you mad?” she’d lie and say nothing was wrong. So he’d be out flirting with other girls, she’d start acting bitchy towards him, he’d ask what the problem was, and she’d say NOTHING. She just let everything go and never stood up for herself.

If, somehow, you don’t detest Sawyer, then I think it’s really easy to love this book. But if you get as annoyed with his horrible doucheyness as I did, then it’s kind of a book-ruiner. The problem is that How to Love is ALL about the romance and loving and all that, but when you have a horrible love interest, that just makes the book painful to read.

The Verdict


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  1. I agree so much with your review! I kept waiting for the whole issue with Allie to be addressed and when it is, it’s 3/4th or so into the novel. For me, Allie was the ghost in their relationship. Reena couldn’t let go of what Allie said to her about Sawyer and Sawyer never thought he was good enough for Reena. His reason for leaving made sense, but what I found interesting was his reaction to the baby. His parents don’t bother to mention it? We’re told these two families have a business together and how close they were, etc. and yet nothing is said to Sawyer? Yeah he tried to stand up for Reena during that family dinner, but I felt like he never existed. He never took the time to find out information and therefore, I couldn’t care for him especially after his reaction to Reena having a boyfriend.

    I was frustrated with this book and I wanted to slap some sense into Reena. I’ll admit, the last 1/4th of the novel really came together for me and I only liked that 1/4th, but I wanted so much more for Reena.

    Jess @ Literary, etc recently posted: One Liners: Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
    1. It’s cool that we felt so similarly (but also a bummer that we both didn’t like it!). You made some really good points about how they just said nothing. I thought it was so weird how Sawyer clearly knew it was his child and yet he didn’t seem to try to get any information O_O He was just like, “Guess that’s my kid. Okay.”

  2. Hrm. I have an arc of this one (received unrequested). I’m not a fan of contemporary and from what you’ve said I can tell it’ll just make me angry. I can’t stand a girl that doesn’t stand up for herself. Really grating especially if it continues and she doesn’t mature out of it. I think I’ll skip this one since the topic didn’t interest me but I’d heard some good things about the writing. Thank you for the honest review!

    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted: Welcoming Fall Giveaway Hop
    1. Yeah I totally agree. If she doesn’t stand up for herself, then it’s hard to feel sorry for her. :/

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