Author: Katie Cotugno
Published: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC provided by publisher (Thank you, HarperCollins Publishers!)
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.
*Image and synopsis from Goodreads
One of the great things about reading contemporary YA fiction is the feeling of connectedness to the reality of life. Contemporary fiction reaches out to readers in ways that tug at their heartstrings, reminding them that they can’t escape reality. It’s beautiful how contemporary fiction mirrors real life. And this book, How to Love, is a breathtaking reflection of love, family, forgiveness, and the wonder of second chances.
Told in alternate Before and After chapters, How to Love overflows with sincere emotions. The smooth pacing enabled me to follow the story easily. Katie Cotugno’s writing is fresh, smart, and genuine. Her words are simple yet sparkle with life.
How to Love shows that people and relationships are not perfect. We commit mistakes and whether we like it or not, it will always be that way in reality. The main character, Reena, is remarkable. She’s bright, funny, and deep. Her thoughts blew me away and made me think of my own imperfections, too. I can relate with Reena because like her, I also dream of becoming a writer and seeing the whole world. Reena’s mistakes may have led to a complicated life but she braved through it. She proved that mistakes could make someone a better, stronger, and independent person. The novel also illustrated how Reena is as a mother and I liked that a lot. The way she takes care of her daughter Hannah and how she shows her love and affection for the child moved me. In spite of her young age, Reena handles the responsibility of being a mother well.
The guy, Sawyer, is an interesting character. He’s a “bad boy” type of guy who’s into parties and girls. Reena and Sawyer are opposites yet they’re unbelievably good together. I can’t put into words how amazing their chemistry is. Reena and Sawyer are an ideal example of a perfect couple in beautifully imperfect ways.
The Before and After chapters are detailed, clearly explaining the connections of events in Reena’s life. Readers will also get to see how Reena and Sawyer evolved from childish teenagers into mature adults.
Falling in love is a wonderful and inevitable phenomenon that every teen goes through. How to Love magnificently encapsulates that experience. Moreover, the book conveys to readers how it is to truly love a person. Reena loved Sawyer before and still loved him after because she accepted him for all that he is, past included. It’s the kind of love that is incomparable. To love is to learn everything about that person, flaws and all. And that’s what Reena did.
This book is unforgettable and heartwarming. I recommend this to readers who want to experience how to love with all their heart.