Summary: For fans of Sarah Dessen and John Green, How to Love is a breathtaking debut about a couple who falls in love . . . twice.
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 thoughts: The summary is pretty good, enticing and one of the reasons I picked up this book. The other reason was a recommendation on a book review blog. So naturally, my expectations were pretty high. What did I think in the end? Oh, boy, this book is so disappointing on many levels. My issues were: this book is sexist, the main character, Reena, was annoying and there wasn’t a distinguishable difference between her before and after voices, the love interest, Sawyer, was abusive before and after, and finally the book’s attempt on justifying Reena’s decision to keep the baby instead of doing an abortion was… pathetic? It didn’t even get a full chapter, but a page or so. Be warned, there might be spoilers from this point.
Why do I say this book is sexist? Basically because most of Reena’s thoughts are Sawyer-centric. Even her decision to graduate early is determined by Sawyer’s actions because she got mad at her best friend, Allie, who started dating Sawyer. And then when she dates him, it’s always about Sawyer. She just follows him around to parties, even though she hates parties. She just leaves a school paper meeting because Sawyer wants her to come with him. She ditches school, even though she had a quiz, a meeting with the guidance counselor, and a pitch for article she really wanted to do. Because Sawyer said she should ditch. FUUUUUUUUUU! Yeah, I know, her new best friend is a lesbian. It doesn’t compensate and Shelby’s girlfriend doesn’t even make an appearance.
Reena is annoying, whiny and just obsessed with Sawyer. Even her decision to graduate early is because she lost her best friend, Allie, who started dating Sawyer. She works very hard to get into college, joins the school paper, but she just gives up after she finds out she’s pregnant. She had other choices which were never explored. We don’t get to see her thought process that leads to her keeping the baby, just an afterthought: “I just felt it in my bones”. After she has the baby, she doesn’t move out even though her father hates her. She’s just complacent in a horrible situation.
Sawyer. Ugh. Reena just likes him by default, there’s no other reason. Well, he’s her father’s grandson, but that’s not a reason. Sawyer is very inconsiderate of Raina’s needs. After the first time they have sex, he just leaves. No goodbye, no phone calls, nothing. Then, he comes back and Reena just accepts him back. There is also no reason for his drug abuse. You might say that Sawyer’s behavior was motivated by Reena’s decision to leave for college. That would mean he was passive-agressive. Anyway, when he comes back after two years, he just expects Reena to take him back and just plays games with her, so she would profess her love. She does in the end, after she cheats on her boyfriend and breaks up with him in a dick-ish manner. Where’s the anger, resentment, frustration, Reena?
There is also some drama. Allie’s death didn’t move me too much. The father’s heart attack was better, but way to go, making it all about Sawyer too. The romance was pretty standard, and the sex scenes were glossed over. One thing that bugged me about the sex scenes was if they ever used protection. It’s kind of irresponsible not mentioning anything about this. The relationship between Sawyer and Reena was not love, it was rather an unhealthy obsession on both their parts. I think it would have been a much better book if it only contained the before part, expanded. The writing was good, flowed pretty, but that’s no reason for praise. You kind of expect that from a book. Do I recommend this book? If you don’t have anything else to read, sure. But you might feel compelled to toss it as I almost did after I read about three quarters.
Rating: 1.5 stars
About the author: Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.
Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.
The great loves of Katie’s life include child’s pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.