How to Love by Katie Cotugno
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?
I started How to Love expecting an episode of MTV's Teen Mom in novel form. I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't like that at all. Cotugno tackled the topic of teen pregnancy and motherhood with grace and good storytelling - but the love story just didn't work for me.
If you find Sawyer LeGrande charming or pitiful, you probably loved the romance. I concede that it was very well written, but I wasn't charmed by Sawyer. I was hoping Reena would shut the door in his face; even if he'd changed, he was a pretty bad boyfriend before he disappeared. So of course I was disappointed by the absolutely predictable ending. Even now, I haven't totally decided how I feel about Sawyer.
Saying the love story fell flat but I still loved the book sounds kind of strange when the book's called How to Love. It's one of the main reasons I liked this book so much, though; the love story is central, but the story is about so much more. How to Love is a book about love, obviously, but also about grief, second chances, and family. The tensions between Reena and her family, the ways she had to adapt to her new life, that's where How to Love found its magic. I adored the relationships between all the characters, I'm just a little disappointed with how some of them turned out.
How to Love is an excellent read. I personally didn't find Sawyer all that alluring, and the ending disappointed me, but it's sure to delight others. Even with a romance that didn't quite do it for me, this layered, thoughtful, and well-written book earns four stars.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.