Tuesday, 1 October 2013
Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno
Released: October 3rd, 2013
This is a love story. But it's not what you think. This is not a first kiss, or a first date. This is not love at first sight. This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love. This is the complicated route to happiness that follows. This is real. This is life. This is how to love. BEFORE: Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he's never noticed her, until one day... he does. They fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town, leaving a devastated - and pregnant - Reena behind. AFTER: Three years later and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?
How to Love is a book that I first heard about a few weeks before a copy landed on my doorstep. I started reading it the day it arrived and sped through it like a crazy person, only pausing to sleep. It's an all-consuming, realistic love story that, like all relationships, spans a few tumultuous years in the lives of Reena and Sawyer.
How to Love jumps between the past and the present, using alternating chapters to distinguish between the two. Reena and Sawyer grew up together, practically living in each other's pockets when they were younger. The 'before' chapters of the book focus on their mid-teenage years, before Reena's daughter Hannah, while the 'after' chapters showcase Reena's life as a single parent in present day. It's a clever way to tell the story of a relationship that is so complicated and long, and I really liked being able to get a glimpse into both aspects of their lives.
This book is so detailed and thorough that it's quite hard to talk about in a short review. By the end of the book I felt like I knew Reena and Sawyer inside out and back to front, they had no secrets left and everything was out in the open. What I like most about these characters is that they're so real. They're unbelievably flawed, which is how real people are, and it's nice to read about two people who don't have everything figured out and who make mistakes like accidentally getting pregnant or having huge family blowouts that don't result in anything good. That's what life is like, and that's what it's like for these characters too.
Reena is a good girl while Sawyer is a typical teenage boy, breaking the rules and worrying about the consequences later. He's good for Reena and she's good for him, or she tries to be anyway. He leaves town, though, which is where Reena's nightmare of being pregnant and alone begins. Her family don't take it well and she really does have to get herself through it, mostly by sheer will and determination. Teenage pregnant plots have been done to death in YA books, but I think this one is the best I've read so far. It shows life after the baby is born, and how it isn't always the worst thing that can happen to someone. Other books tend to only focus on the negative side of it, whereas this one shows both.
How to Love is beautifully written by debut novelist Katie Cotugno and is a book that will stay with me for a while. I was happy with the final outcome, though I think a different path may have been better for the characters. I wasn't disappointed with the ending, because I've come to realise that it is right for Sawyer and Reena and there really couldn't have been any other conclusion.
Readers who like their YA more on the thoughtful, mature side will enjoy this novel, and will find some excellent writing just waiting to be read. There's plenty to think about and discuss where this book is concerned and I'm sure it'll spark many a conversation between teenage friends. I love finding new authors and books like this, and I hope this one sells well enough to warrant more from Katie Cotugno. I for one am very interested to see what she tackles next.