Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How To Love
by Katie Cotugno
Read: June 11 - 12, 2o13
Published: October 1, 2013 by Balzer + Bray
Source: BEA - Thank You Harper Collins
Category: Contemporary YA


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. (From Goodreads)
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I had this great plan when I got back from BEA* to chronologically work my way through the books I picked up. Then I was looking through them one day and picked up How to Love, thinking, "I'll just read the first chapter and see what this is all about." I couldn't put it down. The story of these two people and their messy, complicated relationship, climbed right inside of me, and I couldn't move from this book on until I lived inside of them and experienced their story for myself. 

How to Love is told in alternating chapters of Before and After, chronicling Reena and Sawyer’s chaotic love story in high school, and then after, when Sawyer returns from an unexplained 2-year absence. The two time periods are woven together seamlessly in a way that increases both the intensity of the heartbreak and the rush of falling in love. I hated both Reena and Sawyer at times, and I was incredibly proud of them in others. But I was completely immersed in their world the entire time I read, and I never stopped FEELING. 

Before: Reena's been in love with Sawyer since she was a child. She has two dreams in life, dating him and traveling the world. One of those two goals seems much more attainable than the other, and it isn't a relationship with Sawyer. And yet, after years of feeling invisible to him, all of a sudden Sawyer notices her, and they form an immediate and explosive connection. But how long do they have until it all blows up, and what will the damage look like? 

After: Reena is raising her daughter Hannah. She still dreams of getting away from her small town, but is learning to accept the life she's been given. Of course being head over heals in love with her daughter helps. What doesn't, is the judgement she still feels from her family for getting pregnant in the first place. But all of the settling she's worked so hard to achieve, disappears when Sawyer shows up back in town. 

Before: Reena and Sawyer's relationship is a mess. They make terrible decisions, and I could see it all slowly unraveling around them. I wanted to tell Reena to stay away from  Sawyer. That the boy she's loved all her life is't worth it. But I remember being there as a teen, and I was rooting for them despite the dread I felt watching them. These two have a lot of very big issues that they need to work through, although they ignore them. But I could still sympathize with both of them. Though I constantly wanted to yell at Reena "DON'T DO THAT!!!" I still liked her, and I could definitely relate to her. And despite everything, I was desperate for them to figure it out. 

After: What is great about this story is that while we are watching Reena and Sawyer fall in love for the first time, we simultaneously watch them reconnect again 3 years later. We see how they've changed and matured (and how they haven't). The contrast between the Before and After is incredible at times. It is breathtaking to see their transformation, and how well they fit the second time around. But healing takes time. These two have a lot of hurt between them, and some things can't be fixed. There were many times when I wondered if they'd ever be okay. 

I've read a lot of stories like How to Love, but I've never read one quite like this. What I mean is that the guy leaving his high school girlfriend unexplainably and then showing up unannounced years later is a popular theme. For some reason I'm drawn to stories of first loves finding each other again, but I've always found something about them lacking. Perhaps I'm just pettier than most, but usually, it's that I'm still angry at him when the girl is ready to forgive. How to Love hits all the emotional points that I needed to read. 

How to Love is an ode to first love. To being young and in love and making mistakes, but also what it means to grow up. This story is not about a girl saving a broken boy or vice versa. But it is about finding your own path, and how it changes both because of the choices you’ve made, and because of things out of your control. It is about holding on and letting go, and what it means to love and to forgive. And despite all the hurt and pain these characters cause themselves and each other, this story is about happiness and hope. 

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone 

*I know I sound like a broken record, highlighting BEA over and over again. I apologize for this. It really was one of the biggest events of my year. It's also where I received most of the books I've been reading this summer, and I just find myself wanting to talk about my experience getting them, as much as the books themselves. 

22 comments:

  1. Lauren, we have polar opposite opinions about this book. Ah, I wish I would have loved it too, but Sawyer just wasn't a very good character. I get his immaturity in the before scene but I really hoped he would have been more serious in the after ones. I liked Reena though, her story was very emotional. Lovely review, Lauren! :)

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    1. I'll have to check your review when you publish it, Aman. But I can definitely see if you didn't connect with Sawyer in the After portion, this book wouldn't work for you. For some reason, I really bought that he had changed later on. He was focused on getting Reena back. It's funny, b/c she annoyed me a bit more in the second half. Oh well, we can't all like every book. I'm still the only person who disliked The Distance Between Us, so there's that!

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  2. Ok, so I gather from one of your paragraphs that it has a HEA as much as it can have. That's good. Whether they stay friends or lovers, I can deal with that. I know many stories don't get a HEA in real life, but I read books to escape reality and I love a good happily-ever-after:) Heh. I've only read one negative review for this book and I'm glad you didn't fall into the category of people who hate Sawyer for his egoistic explanations and accusing Reena just as much for the explosive breakup when all he did was act like a jerk or something. I'll have to read this one myself and see what I think of it, but I'm so happy you enjoyed this. Hey, have you read Back to You by Priscilla Glenn? I think I remember you reviewing it. Anyhow, I LOVED LOVED LOVED that re-connection story and it's one of my favorites. If How to Love is able to move me half as much, I'm sure it'll be the book for me:) Lovely review hon! AND I don't mind the BEA reference, you just make me happily jealous and whisful of me being able to be there myself someday:)

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    1. I agree, I like HEA's as much as possible in books. It's hard to invest in one, go through a roller coaster of emotions, and not get a positive ending.

      While I didn't like Sawyer all that much in the Before sections, while they were in high school, I really fell for him in the After parts. I think he was focused on getting Reena back, and really it was she who had most of the power at that point. He was waiting for her. I also think that I believed the reasons he went away were valid and he came back healthier. BUT I can imagine that if you don't buy it, you wouldn't be able to handle this book. I really hope that you read this one so we can talk about it!

      I HAVE read Priscilla Glen's book BACK TO YOU. I liked it a lot, but for some reason I liked this one more. How To Love made a much stronger emotional impact on me. But I'm curious about your views if you read this one. I really hope that you read HOW TO LOVE so we can talk about it!

      I Hope you can come to BEA someday too!!

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  3. I'm not a huge fan of these types of love stories. The Sweet Gum Tree was similar in the sense that it featured a broken teenage relationship and later an adult one, and while I liked it alright, I can't say I'm clamoring to pick up a similar novel. I love, though, that there's so much emotion in this, so maybe when I'm in the right mood, I'll pick this up after all. Also: gorgeous cover. Lovely review, Lauren - thanks for putting this one on my radar!

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    1. You know, I still have THE SWEET GUM TREE on my kindle and need to invest in it. I'm very curious about that book. I'm also very curious about your reaction to this one. I bought these characters - their messy before relationship reminded me of my first love and how much I adored him, when it wasn't so healthy. And I bought Sawyer's transformation after, which I think some reviewers have struggled with. I also like that these characters both have to get their own lives together before they could work as a couple. There's no "you saved me!" "I need you to survive!" language in here.

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  4. "Perhaps I'm just pettier than most, but usually, it's that I'm still angry at him when the girl is ready to forgive."

    Oh, that is so me Lauren! I hold a mean grudge, a MEAN one, and I'm almost never ready to forgive the guy by the time the girl is finally starting to give in. I guess that makes me petty as well:) I'm glad that's not the case here and this book just yanked you into their story and refused to let you go! Looking forward to this one:)

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    1. I do too! I've read a lot of these types of books, and usually I'm still mad at the guy when the girl wants to take him back! For some reason, I was able to forgive Sawyer in this story. However, I know some people have read HOW TO LOVE and not felt the same way about him. I'm curious about what your reaction will be! As I was saying above in comments, I like that Reena has most of the control in the After. Sawyer clearly wants her back, but she has to work whether she forgive him or not. Also, these characters aren't in a "I need you to survive" relationship. They have to fix themselves before they can contemplate being together.

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  5. I love those books--the ones you pick up "just to read a few pages of to test the waters and all" and then the next thing you know half the book is gone:) I'm coming back to this review since I still have to read my copy (I'm so slammed reading wise these days!)

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    1. I really hope that you read this soon and we can discuss it! I'm dying to know whether you react to this story like I did. BUt I'll be patient until you can get to it. You are swamped!

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  6. This is the first time I hear about this book, and you broke down its content so well! Like Keertana, I think I have to be in the right mind-set for this one, because of the emotional pull it has. Still, I'm very interested in checking it out. Thanks for sharing your positive experience. :)

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    1. I'm glad I read this before I started seeing lots of reviews. Sometimes seeing other people's reactions makes me so nervous, and it's best to go into it blind. I really loved this one, so I hope you enjoy it when you get to it.

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  7. I went straight to the last paragraph so I could see what you thought--I am SO glad to hear you love it! A lot of 5 stars have been popping up, but I tend to agree with you on books like this, so I am looking forward to this even more now. Will be by your GoodReads review eventually when I've had a chance to read the book!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. I really did love this one. I bought these characters and their changes in the before and after time periods. This story also reminded me so much of my first love. How madly in love I was with this guy, and how I didn't think clearly about things I probably should have. I know not everyone has felt the same as I do about this book, but I hope you do. I will be looking for your thoughts when you get to this.

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  8. Lauren i'm so glad you liked this book because it's one of my most anticipated reads for fall! I like these types of stories where you see the growth of characters over the years and these characters sound really interesting. Great review! Hopefully i love this one in October as much as you did :)
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

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    1. I hope you love this as much as I did, Lily! The way the author was able to blend these characters in their Before and After selves was beautifully done. I truly bought them in both settings, and I love that my feelings for them changed a lot throughout the course of the book.

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  9. LOL--I had the same plan for after BEA. I blew through a whole pile and then...stopped. While I might have to wait until I'm in the right frame of mind for this one, it's definitely on my list! (I'm just not emotionally capable to feel all the feels right now...soon!) Great review.

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    1. I completely understand that sentiment, Mary! I'm glad I read this book early before I saw reviews, or I probably would have been so afraid to start it. I hope you do love it, when you get to it. Definitely worth the effort.

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  10. I've heard some not so happy rumblings about this book so I am really happy to read your review. I totally agree with you... I love books about people who find each other again. (I was just thinking about this happening in another novel and I forget what it is. Of course.)

    I have this one in my TBR pile, and I cannot wait to get started now that I read your thoughts!

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    1. I really loved this one! I'm actually glad I read it before I saw negative opinions, so that they didn't affect me. I can see where this might not work if you didn't buy the changes in characters, but I really did. I was completely drawn into Reena and Sawyer's story. As I said, there were times that I despised both of them! But in the end, I also fell for both of them hard. I'll be looking for your review.

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  11. I'll be honest and tell you that I skimmed your review because I've heard rumblings about this book, and lately, I've wanted to judge every book myself, on its own merits and not what others thought about it. But I like the format of your review, highlighting the before and after. And "ode to first love" rings beautifully in my ears, so I'm even more excited to read this one now. I love books featuring imperfect heroines. They always make for more realistic storytelling and therefore a more heartfelt story...for me, anyway.

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  12. DUDE. Read what you want or you'll hate everything (at least I will). I have been doing this thing where I pick one BEA book from the current month and then one book whatever I want (including BEA books that are far off in the future). I just started it but I think it's going to work for me. And BEA is amazing. I can't imagine NOT going. Part of my life plan is centered around the fact that I want to be done with school and working full time before BEA moves to Chicago so that I can afford to go.

    And this sounds so fantastic. I'm really looking forward to reading this and I really appreciated your take, because sometimes for things as emotionally intense as this one sounds, I want to know what I'm in for.

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