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.
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.
Every 4th Sunday of the 3rd leap year during a full solar eclipse I enjoy a contemporary novel. I know that sounds really dramatic but just ask Shelly! Contemporary is not really my thing. I can (moderately) enjoy New Adult, Romance, Paranormal Romance and even Urban Fantasy. But if you suggest a flat-out contemporary or realistic fiction story to me, I will more than likely walk away from you before you can even finish the synopsis. I can never connect with the characters, or the story, or the complete lack in common sense we, as human beings, should have but for some reason can never bring forth when a love interest is involved. So you can imagine my surprise when I desperately wanted to read How To Love. At the time I couldn’t put my finger on why I so badly wanted this contemp in my hand. Why this one, over all the others, made me add it to my Amazon wish list and mark it with the highest priority. I’ve never read anything by Cotungo, so it wasn’t just author love. I don’t typically venture into teen pregnancy stories (I have lived that reality and I am done thank you very much), so it wasn’t blatant fascination. But something jumped out and I’m actually really happy I gave it a shot.
How To Love is the complicated and messy story of Reena Montero and Sawyer LeGrande. Two teenagers who have known one another since birth, whom, through a plot of ups, downs, ins, outs and sideways wind up in love. Reena is a beautiful, smart, sassy and boringly responsible girl with a dream to be a travel writer. I instantly loved her in a mama bear way because I knew, that as smart and resourceful as she was, she was going to need protecting from this harsh world. She wasn’t weak or helpless by any stretch of the imagination. She was just young and innocent but she was also fierce and strong. She worked so hard, and had been through so much so early and as a reader seeing a character who is relatable is everything. She wasn’t dirt poor and all alone, but she wasn’t filthy rich with ridiculous maids and car services. She was smart, but she wasn’t “walking encyclopedia” smart. And she was brave. Pregnant at 16 with no one but Shelby (the greatest best friend anyone could ask for) truly on her team supporting her. Reena faced every obstacle and decision head on with no moaning, no groaning, no dependency on others. She saw what needed to be done and just did it! It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always what she wanted to do but she handled herself and all of her situations in a way that deserved instant respect. We bumped heads at times but she grew so much as a young woman during the book, and I can appreciate that growth.
Then you have Sawyer. I read a few reviews before starting How To Love and the biggest gripe I saw was Sawyer. Was he a giant douche? Yes. Did he have major issues that, while sufficient, shouldn’t give him a free pass for being a douche? Yes. But what teenage boy isn’t a pain in the ass? The most important thing about Sawyer I can share (without spoilers) is that he grew into a respectable young man and a pretty damn good father. And best of all, he saw his mistakes, apologized, and worked towards being better. His “before” years were full of stupid decisions, James Dean impersonations, and so much irresponsibility I wanted to just punch him in the nose! But in his “after” years you could see that he addressed his “early life crisis” and was genuinely trying to be better.
This said, if Cotugno had written How To Love any other way, I am positive I would not have liked it nearly as much. Splitting the chapters into “Before” and “After” voices was brilliantly executed and again, the growth amongst the characters was palpable. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to write a book not just in the past and present but also with adults reverting back to their adolescent selves. I’ll be the first to admit that I much rather enjoyed reading their “After” selves but I completely understand that without the “Before” voices the story would have been empty and incomplete and I appreciate and admire what Cotugno did with it.
A solid four star read. Which coming from me means hell has frozen over and pigs are officially flying.