Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: How to Love by Katie CotugnoHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 1st 2013
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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.

Don’t let my 3 stars sway you against this one. How to Love is a pretty good book for many reasons. First it touches on a subject I personally have not often come across in books – teen pregnancy. I found this was handled realistically and fairly. I also really enjoyed the way it was told in past and present perspectives, allowing us to slowly unravel the messy, emotionally conflicting details of Reena’s relationship with the father of her child – Sawyer. We learn how it started, but most importantly how much it has changed. How much they both have changed. On that note, the reason I did not love this book despite finding it otherwise engaging: Sawyer LeGrande!

To be frank. Sawyer LeGrande is an ass. Since the story alternates from past to present, we’re treated to his “lovely” personality from when he was first with Reena. To be fair he was not in a good place in his life, and he very much changed in the “present” perspective which makes up for it, some. Nevertheless, I had a very hard time forgiving his behavior from the past. Maybe a tiny bit because of my own somewhat similar messed up teenage relationship, but alas, I blocked myself emotionally from this guy long before we were meant to find him redeemable.

Reena, however, I loved. I found her mature beyond her years – likely due to her having to raise a child so young. She’s a great mother who owns up to her mistakes; raising a child, getting a job, putting her own dreams on hold to do what needed to be done – no matter how unfair she was being treated by her family. That, alone, is admirable to me. She’s got flaws, she’s not great at admitting things to herself for one, and she let Sawyer be a jerk to her for way too long. In the end, we all make stupid decisions, we all refuse to let ourselves see people’s real sides sometimes. My teen self just very much related to her in spite of it all.

Aside from teen pregnancy, this book tackles drug use, religion, family discordance, betrayal, death – but ultimately, love, romance, and friendship. Since I didn’t love Sawyer, the romance fell a bit flat for me. I’m all about second chances, but I think Sawyer had a lot more to make up for, not helped by the fact that Reena gave in to him (both in past and present) much too easily. Evidently, all my problems with this book stem from him. Everything else is what drew me in: the writing, the realism, the family dynamic, the emotional struggles – I also loved every other character. If I had grown to like Sawyer… I can understand the reasons behind the many 5 stars!


3 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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25 Responses to “Review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno”

  1. Kelsey

    This book was recommended for me to read, and it does seem like it could be good. I’ll have to see how I handle Sawyer and if I like him or not, but I am excited to see Reena and what goes on with her. Thanks for the review!

  2. Siiri

    Seems like Reena is more of an old soul and Sawyer is just a fucking prick. I have read so many bad things about him taht I don’t know how could I possibly swoon over him when I finally crack the spine of my copy. I do love the idea of this book–dealing with teenage pregnancy, character growth, reconnecting etc. However, I’ve basically only dated good guys. Mostly. So when I read about guys like Sawyer, it makes my blood boil and I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I’m glad that you still enjoyed it, but it’s unfortunate that one character basically ruined the books for you.

  3. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Your review is completely understandable, Giselle. I personally loved this book for Reena’s character and also how involved the whole family was in her life. I did end up forgiving Sawyer because I think he wasn’t in the right place as you mentioned. If the author had provided more to his backstory with his dad, I’m guessing a lot of people would have enjoyed his character better.
    Still though, I loved how realistically teenage pregnancy was shown in this one.
    Lovely review.

  4. Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader

    Despite the overwhelming praise this novel has garnered thus far, I can’t seem to work up much enthusiasm about it. As much as I love the contemporary genre and realistic fiction, teen pregnancy has never been a topic I’ve ever been particularly interested in reading about. While I do like that the novel is told from both the past and present perspectives as I think this adds an interesting dimension to the novel, this isn’t the first review I’ve read that has touched on Sawyer’s problematic behaviour and, like you, I think this would spoil any enjoyment I might otherwise have derived from this novel. Your rating is entirely understandable – No matter how well a subject is handled, I find a connection to the characters is key to my enjoyment of a novel and securing the more difficult four or five star ratings.

  5. Christianna

    Gah, the main guy sounds like a total ass. But it sounds like this one is really well grounded in reality too, so that’s really cool! I’m not sure if this is the kind of book that I would like, but on the other hand reviews like yours make me really curious!

  6. Ashley

    I agree with a lot of what you said. I think this book had the potential to be amazing.. all the parts were there for me to love it.. but then Sawyer just ruined it all. I think if Sawyer’s entire character was redone into an actually nice/redeemable guy, then I would have loved the book! But Sawyer really prevented me from enjoying it and he even made me dislike Reena a bit (for dating him), when I otherwise liked her character.

    I hate it when one character just kills a book. 🙁

    Great review!

  7. Molli

    *blinks* HOW did I miss that’s what this book was about? Wow, I totally (for some reason) thought it was a YA contemporary, but the “present” part seems like it will be more upper YA/NA or even maybe more adult-ish. From what you said about Sawyer, and from the other books I’ve read about teen pregnancy I’m going to predict I will either love or hate this book – especially with all the other subjects it explores.

    Either way we’ll find out soon. It’s on deck for me to read.

  8. Candace

    The romance is a common complaint I’ve found for this book, that people didn’t find him redeemable. I’m a bit curious about the book though. I think it would be very emotional.

  9. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    My review was pretty much exactly the same as yours in terms of my opinion on it! I thought Sawyer was such an idiot, and I really hated Reena for putting him onto a pedestal and immediately forgiving him afterwards. But at the same time I loved her voice in the present for the same maturity that you ended up loving. The whole premise of the book was so great except for Sawyer lol.

    I’m glad that this overall was a good read for you, even if Sawyer bothered you. Fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  10. Sam @ Realm of Fiction

    I keep going back and forth with this one. The reviews have been pretty good overall, but teen pregnancy is one of those topics I never really want to read about. Reena sounds great though and I’m glad you were able to like her character, despite the romance falling flat. Lovely review, Giselle!

  11. Tina

    I’ve already had this on my to-read list and I’m pretty excited to read it. A little bummed you only gave it 3 hot espressos but still looking forward to it anyway!! I really loved this review and have a feeling I’ll be agreeing with most points you’ve made.

  12. Kelly

    I’m rather curious about this book now! I think it could go either way for me: I’ll either really like it or I’ll have the same feelings about it as you. Great review Giselle!

  13. Pili

    I’ve read other reviews for this book having the same kind of problem with it that you did, Sawyer. Still, all the other reasons you gave for giving it a try and what you liked about the book still make me want to give it a try, even if I’m not a fan of contemporaries.

  14. Chel @ The Procrastinator's Corner

    I tend to avoid books that tackle heavy subjects like those you mentioned. As well, frustrating characters are a no-no for me. I feel like Sawyer is going to annoy the heck out of me, and Reena sounds the same too. I just don’t like it when undeserving people get things way too easily.

  15. ShootingStarsMag

    I am curious about this one. I’ve read some good reviews for it, and it has a very interesting premise. I can see how it might be hard to forgive a guy that has done bad things in the past though…so I guess I’ll have to read and see!

  16. Danielle

    I’ve heard Sawyer is an ass as a teen so I’m prepared for that when I finally get around to this but overall it sounds like a fab emotional story so looking forward to it! Great review!

  17. tonyalee

    Honestly, teen pregnancy is a tough subject for me to read about. I try and shy away, since the few I have read made me so angry I was spitting fire.

    I am still up in the air about this one. But thanks for the insight into Sawyer. : )

  18. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    “Aside from teen pregnancy, this book tackles drug use, religion, family discordance, betrayal, death – but ultimately, love, romance, and friendship.” I love how this book includes pretty much all the tough subjects.

    Great review, Giselle! <33

  19. Leigh @ Little Book Star

    I also gave this one 3 stars out of 5. I completely HATED Sawyer. There were times when he was trying to be cute, but I was just like UMM CAN YOU STOP? YOU AIN’T CUTE. I also loved Reena’s character because she continued on having the baby, and gave her dreams up just for Hannah. It just shows how responsible she is even if she’s still a teenager.