Title: How to Love
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.
My last debut of the year – a success or another unfortunate flop in a bad year for debuts (at least for me)? While this book didn’t blow me away like I had hoped it would, it was definitely an enjoyable debut.
The ages and events in this book were kind of interesting. As far as I know, this book has always been classified as young adult, but main character Reena (did anyone else wonder why she didn’t use her real name? I mean, Serena is a pretty name!), is attending a community college and, oh yeah, is a single mother, which seems like something that might be classified as New Adult (minus all the sex – so, basically, something that most people want from NA). Sometimes I had trouble figuring out how responsible and old Reena is supposed to be, and that kind of threw me out of the story sometimes.
OK, let’s talk about the romance now. I’ve seen mixed feelings toward the romance – most people seem to be either fairly neutral toward it or are rubbed the wrong way. I’m leaning a little towards the latter – I never hated Sawyer or anything, but I also never really got the appeal of him, especially after you see some of the things that happened around the time he left Reena. Yes, he didn’t know that she was pregnant, but he did other stuff that made me just as frustrated as if he had. It didn’t ruin the book for me or anything, but it did make me feel slightly frustrated whenever I had to sit through scenes where Sawyer was probably supposed to be more sympathetic than I thought he was. By the end, I didn’t hate him, but I also wasn’t a huge fan.
There was something unexpected that I really enjoyed, though: the religious aspect of this book. I’ve talked about how I’d like to see religion included in books (without seeking out Religious books with a capital letter), and this was the first of quite a few that I read in one month. Anyway, Reena comes from a Catholic family. Not Christian, but Catholic (yeah, there’s a difference – if you’re Catholic, then you’re a Christian, but if you’re Christian you’re not necessarily Catholic – but they often have similar moral views); anyway, being a pregnant and unwed teenager is not considered a good thing in her family, at all. It goes beyond making her life difficult, of course, so that brings in various issues with her family that she has to deal with. There are also bits about going to church and such, which was nice – it didn’t feel like the religion was thrown in just to add tension, but that it was actually part of the characters.
Overall, despite some of the complaints I mentioned, I thought this was an enjoyable debut. I didn’t always connect with the main character or the love interest, but I was interested in the story for the most part, which was a good thing in my mind. I definitely plan on checking out future things from debut author Katie Cotugno.