Review: How To Love by Katie Cotugno

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Rating: *** / 3 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Drama
Expected publication: October 1st 2013 by Balzer + Bray
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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?

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An ARC was given in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.

When I give 3 stars, it usually just means “I liked it” but it wasn’t that great that it could garner 4-5 stars (and oftentimes, these are the ones that are hardest to write). Or it would mean it has a lot of good, but also a lot of bad, and it balances. This one’s rating… is a bit more special than that.

In How To Love, we’re introduced to two individuals who both have their own demons to face, within themselves and with the people that surround them. They’ve gone through a lot – the girl got pregnant, the boy left without knowing, three years later, he returns and it’s chaos all over again. If you know me, I kind of love drama like this because it guarantees a lot of values in friendship, love, and family, and character development many of us could learn from and apply in real life.

This book is actually very successful in that aspect. You see, How To Love is quite a powerful character-driven story. If you like strong and genuine narrative that touches on raw and deep emotions, this is your book. Katie Cotugno is a spectacular writer as she was able to express the heroine’s feelings, conflicts, and frustration well. You get angry when she’s angry, angry when she’s being stupid, angry when she’s being too angsty, and emotional when she’s emotional. I tell you, there were many intense moments in this book, scenes that made me hold my breath due to the suspense and the overflowing feelings bottled up. They were written astonishingly that they made me cry, too. This debut author is that good.

However…

Reena, the main character, infuriated me. To give credit, she was meant to be written as too angsty, whiny, and immature in certain aspects (because otherwise, where would that leave character development?), but I couldn’t help but sigh in exasperation every time she overdid it. She’d be sarcastic for no reason, shitty to other people for no reason, complain people were acting shitty to her when she was the one being shitty in the first place, so on and so forth, that it drove me nearly mad. Given, it does fit in the story… her personality, flawed as it was, contributed much to the plot. So, you could say it’s a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. In the end, while she was endearing and strong in her own right, I only felt exhausted as I tried to catch up to whatever she said or did that I thought was questionable. :/ I definitely think she came off too strong for my tastes. In the end, while this was, basically, a five-star read, my negative experience with the main character was too hard to ignore and ultimately pushed me to drop it down to three stars.

But don’t let this get to you! How To Love is still a spectacular book. It’s a tale of facing your fears, overcoming them, and making amends with yourself and with the people around you. The heroine may not have worked for me, but she may work well for you. I recommend this book to those who’d want a well-done character-driven book that includes the elements of friendship, family, and ultimately, love.

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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    • FayeFaye says

      I think it was just me being burned out by angsty characters, but otherwise, her attitude fits in the story. Haha.

  1. says

    Yeah… Reena sounds like a character that would drive me nuts. I’m listening to a book on audio that has a character that sounds just like her and sometimes I want to throw the thing across the room (I’ve settled for tugging out the headphones and chucking them which means no actual damage). But I’m glad that the story still ended up being decent.

    • FayeFaye says

      Hahaha, I’ve been tempted to do the very same thing, Candace! It’s kind of awesome how we get worked up by these characters. I guess for us we just don’t have a lot of tolerance for bullshit =P