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September 27, 2013

Review & Guest Post: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love.
Title: How To Love
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada
Publication date: October 1, 2013
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemporary)
Source: Publisher 
Format: ARC
Pages: 389
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?
I really really don't know where to begin with this review or how to express how I felt about this book. If you already scrolled down, you would have noticed that my rating for How to Love is an "All time favorite" and if you are a frequent visitor on our blog, you'd also know that we rarely ever bring that rating out. To give you an example, the last time I gave this rating was to The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay all the way back in June (almost 4 months ago). I had a hard time writing a review of that book, and I'm facing the same problem now. I want to do this book justice through this review and the only way to do that is to tell you what I wrote above. Clearly, How to Love isn't just amazing, but it is BEAUTIFUL, EMOTIONAL, REAL, and BREATHTAKING. Definitely a solid reason of why contemporary fiction is my favorite genre. 
How to Love doesn't only center around romantic love, but also family love, the love between a mother and daughter, as well as broken love between the people who are the closest to you. All these forms of love show up and are implicated in the plot line. What is unique about How to Love is that it is told in two different time periods, one is when Reena was 16, and another is during her late 18. The POV flip between the past and present is done in such a way that the present and past work parallel together to enhance the plot, the drama, as well as your own emotions. 16 year old Reena never experienced first love while 18 year old Reena already has a daughter, a broken heart, and a disconnected family life. 16 and 18 year old Reena feel like they're on the opposite end of the life spectrum. You can't help but need to find out how this happened. Yes we know the end result, the actual reason, but Cotugno writes in such a way that makes you want to know every detail that happened in that 2 year span. 
Also, even though both POVs are connected, they also work alone and have their somewhat distinct plot line. I loved that even though I know Sawyer ended up with 16 year old Reena and then left her, I still loved their progressive relationship. It was just so beautiful and Sawyer was funny, protective, caring, and beautiful. Reena was such a naive girl but I couldn't blame her for that because she is only 16. On some level she knew of the impeding outcome but she loved Sawyer too much to let go and that is her decision. However, 18 year old Reena is not only 2 years older, but definitely a hardened version of her younger self. Since she had her heart broken, she isn't willing to risk it. Her relationship with her daughter just brought tears to my eyes. As well as the emotional implication of Sawyer coming back. I am speaking of these characters as if they are real… they at least felt real while I was reading their story and that doesn't happen all that much in books these days. The plot isn't something unique, but the way it was handled, the way the characters came to life, and how their problems felt so real, and their feelings so raw had my heart breaking for them.  
How to Love is not a fluffy contemporary, that is for sure. It is a story about broken love, second chances, and new beginnings. Ever since I finished reading How to Love, I've been itching to read it again. This shows you how much I love it. I can't wait for more work by Katie Cotugno, if they are anything close to how well written How to Love was, I'll be adding more of her books to my "All Time Favorites" list. 
it has finally made another appearance! 

Below is a question I was curious about and have wanted to ask Katie Cotugno about and I got to do that through Harper Collins Canada. If you've read this book or want to read it, then this might be something you would want to know!

What was the inspiration behind the book? Especially the decision to include a baby in the story? Two of my favorite books talk about single moms and the relationship with their kid (The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks and Shout Down the Moon by Lisa Tucker). I always love the relationship between mother and daughter/son. 

I first got the idea for this book way back in high school, and in my head it started as just a boy and a girl in a supermarket: what eventually became the very first scene between Sawyer and Reena in How to Love. I knew she was mad at him--like really, really mad--but it wasn't until way later that I figured out why.

And the why, of course (among many, many other reasons) is their daughter Hannah. 

How to Love isn't at all autobiographical--there are tons of differences between Reena and me, the most obvious of which is that I never got pregnant in high school--but there are definitely things about her story and Sawyer's that are kind of filched from my own life. I went to Catholic school for thirteen years, and that culture was definitely a big part of how I grew up. I used to go to South Florida every summer to visit my family. And I met my own fiance when I was sixteen, so I've always kind of gravitated to stories about first loves. 

For me, though, one of the most interesting--and challenging--parts of writing this book was imagining Reena's experience of becoming a mother so young. I think she feels deeply conflicted at times--getting pregnant definitely derailed her life in a ton of huge, devastating ways, but at the same time she loves her daughter desperately. There's nothing glamorous about her life, but there is something sort of strangely beautiful about the mess. Digging deep into those conflicting emotions was so incredibly rewarding for me as a writer, and Reena's relationship with Hannah is one of my very favorites in the book.

- Reena's relationship with Hnnah is also one of my favorite things about How to Love! Thanks so much Katie for answering my question! 


  1. All though this book sounds a it old for me, I'd love to read it. The relationship between Reena and her daughter sounds beautiful and makes me want to read it even more. I love emotional and beautiful books and I'm really interested to see how 18 year old Reena would deal with Sawyer coming back into her life. Glad you enjoyed it, now I must read it. Great Review Juhina.

  2. Many of the reviews I've read so far are awfully mixed however I believe I'll love it just like you- I get emotional and attatched to books easily.

    Fab review, Juhina! <33

    1. wow really? if you get emotional and attached then be prepared with this one :D

  3. Wonderful review and post, ladies! This sounds very emotional and heartbreaking. I can see why Reena would be hesitant to let Sawyer back in her life. :)

  4. I've been wanting to read this book ever since I saw the cover, and seeing how much you loved it, I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! I'm really interested how this one's about all kinds of love, and I'm excited to read an emotional contemporary novel. Great review!

    1. yes yes PLEASE pick it up! I don't want to put your hopes up or expectations because mine weren't when I picked this one up but it IS an emotional read :D <3

  5. I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was so real and emotional. Reena and Sawyer were so flawed and in such a flawed relationship, but the way they grew was just amazing to read.

    Kate @ Ex Libris