How to Love by Katie Cotugno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I seriously have started and stopped writing this review about 4 times. I’m sucking it up now and completing it though.
Every once in a while I read a book that totally exceeds anything I was expecting… a book that leaves you practically speechless with how incredibly it is written and the story it tells. That is what How To Love was for me. I’m not entirely sure what I can say about this book right now, so forgive me if none of this makes a bit of sense.
First of all, it’s told in a wonderfully unique way. You get the before and after. Before and after what you ask? Well, before and after the whirlwind that is Sawyer LeGrande.
Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for what seems like ever. She and her best friend Allie have watched and daydreamed about him forever. Sawyer, who is a few years older than them, has never seemed to notice. Until he does. Only it’s not Reena who captures his attention it seems. So when she loses her best friend over a stupid fight she focuses instead on her dreams. Graduating from high school a year early and getting early admittance to Northwestern are her big focus. She has dreams of traveling the world and becoming a travel writer and she knows she will succeed.
Then something devastating happens… she loses the friend she never had the chance to make amends with. And then she finds herself pulled into Sawyer’s crazy life, and Sawyer isn’t exactly the perfect person she’s created in her mind. Six months later, he’s gone and she’s now trapped in a life she didn’t want or see for herself… her dreams of leaving and making something of herself down the drain.
Almost three years later, Reena has accepted her new life, and while Sawyer disappeared without a word, she finds herself in a new relationship with that of her daughter Hannah. Only, things of course can’t be easy. She feels as though her father hates her. Raised in a very Catholic household, the news that she was pregnant was not one of celebration. But Reena has taken each hit and every disappointment in stride, hiding her anger and sadness in order to keep the peace. Sawyer’s parents who were once staples in her life have basically disappeared.
Suddenly, Sawyer is back and she isn’t sure how to handle it. To say she has mixed feelings would be an understatement.
AND That’s kind of all I want to tell you about the plot.
So let’s talk about the things I fell in love with.
Reena. This girl had me feeling every single damn thing. But I think what I loved most about her was that yes, this thing happens but instead of letting it ruin her, she is strong and she is determined and she is in love with this unexpected gift. I loved that even though she was so young, and believe me, she at times acted her age, but when she HAD to grow up… she did. And she did it with so much determination.
Sawyer… man I really wanted to dislike him. I mean the way he’s portrayed and the things he does. *I’m shaking my head right now* BUT I couldn’t. Cotugno writes him in a way that while yes, at times I was angry with him, I found I had a soft spot for him. As the chapters progress and his own story unfolds, I found my opinion of him changing. Things aren’t always as they seem on the outside.
“Nothing about you, my dear, has ever been lost on me.”
Shelby is the kind of best friend that every person needs in their lives and I absolutely love that we aren’t subjected to the best friend who turns mean girl in this one. She stood by Serena through everything … and I mean everything. And I loved her for it. Even Allie was written as a wonderful best friend despite their disagreement and I love seeing this in YA. (Not every girl has an inner mean girl!)
The story itself is just beautifully written in my opinion. Cotugno has created these incredibly flawed and realistic characters that you just can’t help but fall for. I experienced all the emotions possible while reading this… tears, laughs, frustration, anger and yes even some swoons, and the writing style was perfect.
Sometimes I feel that people go into every single book expecting non-stop action and adventure which is fine… but this isn’t that. This is one of those stories that has a gentle telling, a soft sort of true to life calm about it. It’s compelling and beautiful and also a little bit heartbreaking… with an ending that had me smiling like an idiot.
I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s quickly moved up to all-time favorite status.
Thank you to Harpercollins and Edelweiss for the advance copy for review.