Review–How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love
by Katie Cotugno

Summary: 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.
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.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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How to Love was frustrating to read. It’s a book about second chance love, which I thought sounded amazing. And it might have been, had Sawyer LeGrande not been an epic waste of time. This book should have been called How to Love A Terrible Person and Ruin Your Life As A Result.

I hate to be harsh because the book had promise and wasn’t badly written. I liked the constant jumping from Before to After as we got to understand Reena and Sawyer and how things ended up that way. I kept reading, captivated, wanting to find out what happened between them. How to Love is one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, but once I figured out the full story, it was a waste of time.
The story began with Reena. She was raising her daughter on her own and out of high school. She ran into Sawyer at a gas station and realized that he was back in town for the first time since he left her. The reader had no idea what happened other than Sawyer knocked her up at some point and then left and now he’s back years later. The book switched from After (the baby) to Before frequently throughout the story, so we eventually got the entire picture. Reena’s family wasn’t very happy with the fact that she got pregnant at 16 and her relationship with Sawyer’s parents was nonexistent. She hadn’t spoken to Sawyer since he left, shortly after getting her pregnant. In the Before sections, we found out that she had always had a crush on him since she was a little kid.

I am not judgmental and I love some flawed characters. I’m always rooting for the worst kinds of villains in fiction. Not just your typically bad boy, but the ones that are actually problematic, selfish, and sometimes evil. That is NOT why I dislike Sawyer, really. I can grow to love a flawed bad boy character. I promise. But Sawyer had to the be the worst character to have as the love interest and he was so terrible to Reena. Over and over and over again! And she just kept letting it happen! I wanted to slap her the entire time!

Reena virtually never spoke up for herself. She was in a relationship with a nice, but generally uninteresting guy. She had a shaky relationship with her parents after having her child. The highlight in her life was Hannah, her daughter, but that was basically it. She took some classes at a college, but it was obvious she had gotten into a much better college and had some set goals before finding out she was pregnant. She dreamed of being a travel writer, but was instead a waitress and part time student. While I understood that things have to change when you have a kid, I was kind of irritated that she let her pregnancy stop her from doing what she wanted. No, she couldn’t go off to a 4 year college and ignore her baby, but she could have at least travelled and wrote a bit and not let her circumstances stop her from finding some sort of compromise and joy in her life. She could have at least tried to mend things with her parents by SPEAKING UP every once in awhile. You’re a mom, Reena, you’re an adult. Get the F up and do something with your life and stop letting everyone around you blame you alone for your circumstances. Rise above them and also stop treating them like your life is now ruined.

And then came Sawyer. He had so many problems and he was the kind of guy who made Reena turn into mush and stop being responsible. It was clear that he wanted back into her life and he even attempted to form a relationship with Hannah. It complicated things, especially because she cared about him. But he was terrible. In the Before, he was a drug addict. He took her to parties and scored drugs and just LEFT HER in rooms with strangers KNOWING she was uncomfortable. He flirted with other girls ALL OF THE TIME in front of her. He lied to her in order to not hurt her feelings. He wasn’t the kind of bad boy who was better around the girl he loved. He wasn’t the kind of guy who made her into a better, more well rounded person. He didn’t make her take risks that eventually opened her up in a positive way, like so many bad boys in romantic fiction. There were literally NO redeeming qualities about him. And she just let all of this happen. In the After, he was clean, he was back, and he was willing to be around for her, but there was still this general perception that he really had no responsibilities. Nothing about his past was addressed other than the fact that he wasn’t doing drugs or drinking anymore. Everyone blamed Reena for getting pregnant and even looking Sawyer’s way in the first place and it was generally perceived that it was her fault for getting involved with him. When he came back, that perception was still there as her family warned her not to mess up this time. Which was BS. Where was his slice of blame and responsibility?

Also, when Sawyer left, there was no reason for it. Honestly, he just left and I think it was to create a plot device. Later, it was the general idea that he was afraid she would go off to college and leave him. She was good, he was bad. He worried about her leaving him, she worried about him leaving her. So he left first. And then she was pregnant. And they rarely talked about anything important, or those fears could have been alleviated. Why would anyone want to be with someone who made them feel like less of a person? She never spoke up about her feelings or her wants, and he never talked about his issues. They didn’t belong together at all.

My feelings about the book are directly related to Sawyer. The fact that he’s supposed to be the main squeeze just made me lose all respect for Reena and not enjoy the way things panned out as a result. A better story would have been her finally finding someone who treated her right that she also could fall for and for her family to support her. It seems as though other readers liked Sawyer and rated the book highly because they didn’t have the same problems that I did. My advice is to decide for yourself. How to Love is a quick read and it’s certainly worth reading. It was written pretty well and dealt with a lot of issues. If you don’t hate Sawyer, I’m sure it would be quite enjoyable.


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