October 31, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love

written by Katie Cotugno
published on October 1st 2013 by Balzer + Bray
389 pages
Young Adult/New Adult/Realistic/Coming of Age/Contemporary
other books by author: None (yet...)


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 a 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?

Oh, shout-out to books with lovely covers!
Seriously, and while we're talking about How to Love, which has a very simple yet SO awesome book cover (Don't you want to own the book just so you can shelve it at home and stare at it anytime you want?) here here, a full first star for Katie Cotugno's debut novel.

The second star goes to Serena, or Reena in short. This girl is basically a good girl who happens to be unlucky. Just having a shitty bestfriend is already enough to make your life uncomfotable, yeah? But that's not only what Reena has to deal with, because later her boyfriend suddenly disappears, then she finds out that she is pregnant with the said-boyfriend's baby. Uh oh.

But this girl has some pretty admirable characteristics. Reena is strong, no doubt. With a witty personality that makes her so fun to be around. Being a mom at 16 is never easy (and really, this girl has been through A LOT. She comes from a very religious family so being pregnant in Reena's case was pretty much unforgivable), but Reena did a good job with taking care of baby Hannah! The only problem I have with her is her inability to resist Sawyer, which makes her seems childish and indecisive at times. I was disappointed to read about the end of her relationship with Aaron (even though I've seen it coming), because let's be honest here, Aaron is obviously the better option!

“The hideous thing is this: I want to forgive him. Even after everything, I do. A baby before my 17th birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.” 

Teenage pregnancy is not actually my favorite subject to read, since there will (of course) be so much angst and all. But all the reviews I've stumbled upon before reading How to Love were mostly positive, and I can see why. How to Love was a very enganging read. Katie Cotugno doesn't offer a new angle on seeing this unwanted pregnancy problem, but she presents it raw, honest, and real. She's so good at describing emotions, making me (as the reader) feel as much as Reena feels. We can easily understand Reena's desperation, her anger, her resentment toward everyone who treated her badly since the thing happened, her family included, who didn't exactly do their job at being a strong support system when Reena needed them the most. The part where she finally exploded at their family dinner was my favorite! It's unhealthy for her to just keep all the emotions inside so I was like 'YES YES YES you go girl!' when she lashed out in front of everyone. That moment was epic and the way Katie Cotugno describes it... Ugh, all the feels! Third star for this point.

The story was told in before and after parts, but I prefer reading all the afters, most of the time I just skimmed the befores... I couldn't bring my self to really like Sawyer as a character. Aside from being manipulative toward Reena sometimes, there were very minimal explanation on why he did the things he did on his bad boy days (Also, the drug problems? Why why why why WHY? I need a backstory!), that's why I think his part of the story kinda lacks of depth. The after version of Sawyer was so much better, I love him and Reena together, even though I still think he doesn't deserve that girl *shrug*

In short, How to Love isn't perfect, but to read the book was worth it. For a debut novel, How to Love was enganging, enjoyable and quite a page-turning one. I love Katie Cotugno's writing style. Did I mention how the dialogues are so realistic? (Its exactly the way people would talk in real life!) and I will put her on my radar so that her next books will not be missed!

About the Author

Katie Cotugno is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. How to Love is her first novel. Katie currently lives in Boston with her boyfriend.
                     Website | Twitter | Tumblr

To balance my reviews above with others' reviews, here are some thoughts on How to Love by:
Katy, on Goodreads
Tonya, from The Midnight Garden
Rachna, on Goodreads

[This review is included on Posting Bareng BBI - October: Debut novel ]

Have you read the book? Yes? What do you think? No, you haven't? Are you interested in reading the book? I mean, look at the cover! Such a lovely cover, yeah?


  1. akkkk, keren kayaknya ini buku! aku suka cerita remaja yg agak berat kayak hamil di luar nikah, semoga ada yang mau nerjemahin :D

  2. I had very mixed feelings about this, too--I disliked Sawyer SO much, and she gave in so easily! Grrrr. I did like a lot of the secondary characters, though, and I agree that cover is very eye-catching. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. Yes! The indecisiveness of Reena was one of my problem when reading the book. But then, we knew how much she loved that guy & the fact that said guy happened to be the father of her baby.....
      Thank you so much for coming here, Wendy! I'm a regular reader of The Midnight Garden. So happy to see your comment! <3

  3. Iya bener, covernya simple tapi keren :)


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