Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: How to Love

How to Love
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Page Count: 389
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

I originally passed on requesting an ARC of this one. It sounded good, but my fall reading schedule was already packed full. From time to time, the publisher sends unrequested ARCs and this gem showed up on my doorstep. I caved and decided to move some titles around so that I could read this one. This was a perfect decision. How to Love turned out to be one of my favorite 2013 reads.

How to Love is a different approach to a contemporary love story. The chapters rotate between the present and past. This allows readers to watch a couple fall in love twice. I found this format to be poignant. I truly felt like I knew these characters inside and out.

Reena is an introvert who can't wait to get out of her small Florida town. She has her eyes set on attending Northwestern and never looking back. Reena doesn't have the easiest teen years. She has been in love with Sawyer, the son of close family friends, for as long as she can remember. She's always watched him and wished that one day he would return her gazes. Her heart is crushed when her best friend, Allie, begins dating Sawyer. In one moment, Reena loses her best friend and the object of her affection. Reena's loner tendencies and her struggle to close herself off from her peers reminded me a little of myself as a teen. I wasn't sure of myself around people my own age. I struggled to form connections and make friends. I withdrew into myself and focused on my goals for the future. As an adult, I wish that I had taken more risks in my youth, but at the time I felt many of the same emotions that Reena does.

On the other hand, Sawyer is almost the polar opposite of Reena. He is social and popular. Sawyer is also a bad boy. There is something about a broken bad boy in contemporary fiction that sucks me in every time. Sawyer has demons that plague him and cause him to make bad decisions. The moment he returns Reena's affection, she gets caught in the crosshairs.

The romance between Reena and Sawyer is a whirlwind. They have a bit of the Romeo and Juliet complex going on. Reena's father discourages the relationship and tries to push Reena to focus on her Northwestern dream. He knows that Sawyer is dealing with major issues. Young hearts don't typically listen to reason; Sawyer and Reena can't seem to get enough of one another, but Sawyer's demons won't let him rest. He leaves town and Reena behind without knowing that she's carrying his child.

Sawyer's return two years later sets off the present timeline. He must prove to Reena he didn't know he was leaving behind a baby and win her heart all over again. Reena, on the other hand, isn't so sure she wants to visit her past romantic history. She's moved on, but can Sawyer let her go for good?

How to Love is one of those novels that totally occupies both your heart and mind - even after you've stopped reading. I had a soft spot for Sawyer in spite of his issues. I also wanted the best for Reena and Hannah. I grew to care deeply about these characters and their stories. Love is a complex and complicated beast. I don't see that often reflected in YA literature. So many authors paint a rosy picture with very few complications. I have to applaud Cotugno for writing a contemporary romance that is real and gritty. This sort of love is realistic.

Cotugno's debut is beautiful and dark. It paints a portrait of how haunted and messy love can be. 


One Last Gripe: I was really frustrated by Allie. I know people change and grow apart, but I couldn't understand her choices.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved these characters.

First Sentence: I've been looking for Sawyer for half a lifetime when I find him standing in front of the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven on Federal Highway, gazing through the window at the frozen, neon-bright churning like he's expecting the mysteries of the universe to be revealed to him from inside.

Favorite Character: Reena

Least Favorite Character: Lydia



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.


18 comments:

  1. Well, this book definitely looks amazing
    I am adding it to my TBR
    Your reader,
    Soma
    http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

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    1. I loved every moment. I think you'll enjoy it too.

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  2. I have been on the fence about this book but you have convinced me. Adding it to my EVER GROWING reading list :). This is a great review! Thanks!!

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    1. I was on the fence too. Trust me though, if you like contemporary romances, you need to give this one a try.

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  3. I had trouble finding a soft spot for Sawyer, If I were Reena's parent, I would have done everything to keep them apart. But he did redeem himself some in the end, and I did LOVE this book. Great review!

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    1. I totally understand. When I read I often try to see things the way the main character does. I think that's why I was able to love Sawyer - even in his worst moments. If I had been reading this and thinking about my own perspective, I don't know that I would have been able to see him in the same light. I also agree 100% - Reena's parents should have stepped in.

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  4. I LOVED this book so much. I admit Sawyer wasn't the greatest person to Reena, but I still loved him nonetheless. I really liked the relationship between Reena and her child. It was cute to read. Anyways, fantastic review!

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    1. I agree - I loved the relationship between Reena and her daughter. I also think Sawyer had some pretty low moments and could have done better by Reena.

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  5. I didn't love this book like I had hoped. I liked it but I thought forgiveness came a bit too easy. Not a bad read though!

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    1. I can see your point. I think I was able to be okay with the forgiveness because of my soft spot for Sawyer. I am not sure what sucked me in, but there was something unforgettable about him.

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  6. I am in love with the way this novel sounds!

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    1. It's not an easy, sweet romance, but it has so many merits.

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  7. Didn't think I'd like it because there's a lot of them not being together but your review makes it sound worth the realness of the romance:)

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    1. They are together a good portion of the novel, but their relationship is not an easy, fake, smiley happy kinda deal. It's raw and tortured.

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  8. sounds like a really really good contemporary!

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  9. Great review but I will pass on this book. I don't think I will like Reena because her character isn't someone that I can try to relate to.

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  10. Oohh my gosh I loved this review. I.Need.This.Book.Now!! It sounds so wonderful and amazing.

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