Messy and Complicated Love: How To Love by Katie Cotugno

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How To Love
by Katie Cotugno
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Published: October 3rd 2013 by Quercus
Source: Publisher
Author's Website | Goodreads
This is a love story. But it’s not what you think. This is not a first kiss, or a first date. This is not love at first sight. This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love. This is the complicated route to happiness that follows.

This is real. This is life. This is how to love.


Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he’s never noticed her, until one day… he does. They fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town, leaving a devastated – and pregnant – Reena behind.


Three years later and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again.

After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?

Ohmygod. That’s the first thing I thought and literally said right after the book came to an end. And an ohmygod did it deserve.

Let me begin this by telling first the thing I didn’t quite like, so the book could redeem itself later on. The pacing of How To Love was slow. It took me some time (compared to my normal rate) to finish it. There wasn’t so much chemistry in here (that’s in the typical contemporary) to hook me and make me read nonstop, although, I still desired to see how the story would go. If you’re seeking the sweet development of a relationship, or the cute budding of a first-love, this one may not be for you. The description on the book’s cover described it perfectly—“This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love. / This is real.” And yes, I agree, that’s what this is; it’s real.

Katie Cotugno’s writing was ahhhhhhhmazing. It wasn’t pretentious, wasn’t ostentatious; it was plain-spoken and straightforward. It stabs you right in the middle of your heart. It hits that spot. I love her play of words—it’s downright clever (Especially her paragraph/chapter enders. You’ll know what I mean once you read it). Also, the dialogue between the characters was both witty and funny; the exchange of comebacks was entertaining and smart, as well as the sarcasm in them.

“I think of how it felt to lose him, slow and painful and confusing, and how it felt to wonder if I'd ever really had him at all.” 

The flow of the book was nicely put up. With alternating After and Before chapters, the current story timeline could be easily understood. The scenes were little threads being knit together little by little, and they ended up as one neatly weaved beautiful piece of cloth in the end.

The three-year gap of the Before Reena and After Reena (as well as Sawyer) was distinguished very well by the author. There’s this image of the current Reena in my head, and another totally different depiction of the Reena three years ago. It wasn’t difficult to separate their distinct attitudes. The great amount of maturity Reena went through after three years could be totally seen. In fact, I actually favored one over the other. I like the developed Reena better.

“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.” 

The best thing I liked about the current Reena was her development not only as a character but as a person. Her sense of maturity was admirable, like she acquired some—or maybe a lot—essence of wisdom after what happened. She used it as a tool to protect her daughter, herself, and to not make the same mistakes again. However, she sometimes failed to. She’d commit an unwise action now and then. But I adored how this book was constructed—it makes you understand. Understand that life is like that. That love makes someone do stupid things. That life is disordered, is a mess, is painful, is unpleasant. How To Love explains real love and real life in the most perfect and accurate ways.

“I like him so stupidly much.”
I hate Sawyer LeGrande. I mean the younger one, not the older. Because Katie Cotugno transformed his former character into someone almost unimaginable. The cockiness wasn’t lost on him, but like Reena, he grew into a developed man. He changed and knew his responsibilities and the consequences of his actions. Though I wished that we got to learn more about how all this commenced because it was definitely an enormous transformation.

As for the ending, I expected (perhaps wanted) another one. Even so, I still liked and believed in Reena’s decisions (trusted them, even). It was such a dramatic read, but very satisfying.

For those seeking another side of love—the messy, unpredictable, flawed love—you have to check this one. With the real elements of falling in love and breaking apart, and an astounding writing fit for its poignancy—this one’s a daring novel from Katie Cotugno.

Buy the book from: AmazonKindle 

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  1. I'm SO glad you liked the book! I agree with you that the pacing was really drawn out but I actually embraced that. It felt so unhurried and it was just so slow-burning in the best possible way. And yes, Katie's writing was beautiful! The ending was the best part!

    Great review, Kyle! :)


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