Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Narrated by Merritt Hicks
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
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. 
“I am remembering so clearly how he looked when he was eight, when he was eleven, when he was seventeen. Sawyer and I were only together for a few months before he left, but he was my golden boy for so long before that he would have taken the guts of me with him even if we’d never been a couple at all.”
I feel like I've lived Reena's entire life! The audiobook wasn't any longer than others I've listened to, but it still felt like I grew up with her. I loved the alternating chapters! The before and after really helped shaped the overall story. Obviously, we know Reena ended up pregnant and had a baby, but we simultaneously get to see what her life is like now, and the events that led up to that world-changing moment.

I didn't always agree with Reena or her decisions, but I did understand them. She was a young adult trying to find herself, and mistakes are a part of the process. I could look at some of her choices and think about how I would do things differently, but that's because I've already lived through that part of my life and learned from my mistakes.

I didn't love Sawyer, but I don't think I was supposed to either. He was a troubled teen with parental problems (that are never really explained), and he also struggles with addiction. His life is lacking substance, so he seems to just float from one place to the next. I understand now why he left, but I really wish he had never gotten involved with Reena. It was selfish and impulsive on his part.

On the other hand, Reena shouldn't have gotten involved with Sawyer. I don't have enough fingers to list the reasons why, but friends and family showing concern is a big one. Also, I've never seen someone so motivated to graduate and follow their dreams, so I was more than a little peeved when Sawyer became more important than school. He just kept taking things from her, slowly and without concern.

I didn't like how easy it was for Sawyer to wiggle himself back into her life in a major way, nor did I agree with how Reena treated those around her that had been there since his absence. I felt cheated. I know Reena deserved better than what she was getting, even if he seemed changed and understanding. He went about it the wrong way, and again she just let him without much consequence. I never understood her strong emotional attachment to him, other than the fact that he's her daughter's father and she has loved him since they were children. The middle (her actual relationship with him) was weird for me. What did he do to deserve so much from her?

I  may have said, "I didn't," more than a few times, but I truly enjoyed this book. It was remarkably realistic, and I felt like their situation could have happened to anyone. While I didn't agree with a lot that happened, that doesn't mean it wasn't possible. The writing was beautiful, the secondary characters were prominent people within the story, and the narrator was captivating. I kept going back for more even when I wanted to yell at the characters for their stupidity. Life is about learning, and some lessons are harder than others.

41 comments:

  1. I do love audio! And the good ones are the ones that can have bad things too

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too! I agree... people can learn and heal from the bad parts.

      Delete
  2. This is the only Cotugno book I have left to read, and I actually own it. It sounds like typical Cotugno. She just has this way of doing things in her books, that pull me back and forth, but in the end, I always end up liking her stories. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This was actually my first Cotugno book! I wasn't disappointed even though I didn't like a lot of the decisions being made. What teenager makes perfect choices their entire life? It's just that some of those choices can have lasting consequences. The back and forth was great, too!

      Delete
  3. Oh this sounds lovely!! I'll have to check it out. I LOVE the cover!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same! It's simple but so pretty! The colors! The story is wonderful, too.

      Delete
  4. I haven't seen this one around Lindsi but it certainly has my attention. I often struggle when it comes to decisions by YA characters feeling unrealistic. Too often these fictional teens live such perfect lives when life is messy and complicated. He sounds like he has the potential to be abusive, not physically but more manipulative and neglectful. I think I'd struggle with how he shows up and is given another chance, I'm not that forgiving of others or fictional characters either. Brilliant review Linds, so glad you enjoyed it <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I stumbled across it when someone recommended the author to me (and the audio was amazing, btw). If anything, these characters were realistic. I had no trouble believing what was happening, even when I didn't agree with it. Like you said, life is messy and complicated, and I love when books are able to reflect that.

      He wasn't physically abusive at all, but definitely neglectful. He also knew just what to do/say, and just how to push to get her to leave her comfort zone. He never forced her to do anything, but he knew how she felt about him, and I think he abused that information. I'm not saying he didn't like her, I do think he did, but he went about it all wrong. He was selfish, immature and extremely irresponsible. I didn't like how easily Reena seemed to forgive him. He was gone for TWO YEARS.

      Delete
    2. Based on the books I've seen you review, I think this one would be perfect for you!

      Delete
  5. I know this is probably a more realistic portrayal of how people actually act in relationships but from your (and other) reviews I've read I know I'll just be irritated lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was extremely irritated with the two main characters in this book, lol! Realistic or not, I wanted to scream and shake some folks. I was annoyed, but I kept coming back to see what would happen next. It was literally like listening to someone's life play out.

      Delete
    2. And even though I said "annoyed," it wasn't in bad way. It was more like I've been here before, please don't make this colossal mistake because you think you're in love. I wanted to offer advice, which I couldn't do for obvious reasons.

      Delete
  6. You’re so patient. I get so frustrated with characters like this and it ends up ruining my overall opinion of the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Think of it as good frustration... does that help? Haha! I can understand that, too. It depends on the story, though. I can handle mild irritation with characters if I'm enjoying the story, but I can't keep reading a book if I hate the characters and what they're doing.

      Delete
  7. I'm glad that you really liked this book overall, but that's sad that you didn't really love Sawyer at any point since Reena seems set on being with him. Sometimes I just don't know why characters make the decisions they do!!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was annoyingly obsessed/infatuated with him, and that's true for most of her life. It ruined a lot of relationships, too. She made the decisions of a teenage in love, so I can't really fault her for that, but damn. I wish she had made better decisions!

      Delete
    2. But if she had, there wouldn't be a Hannah, and I did adore little Hannah.

      Delete
  8. Sawyer sounds like a sad case but glad to her you liked the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I knew more of his story. I have no idea what caused such a rift between him and his parents. I don't know how he became an addict, or what spurred his decision to play in a band. I feel like I needed more information to fully understand him, but right now I just see him as someone that always runs away. Things get hard and he's gone, he just doesn't deal with it.

      The overall story is great!

      Delete
  9. I do like books that really let you know the characters. This one sounds like it is a realistic but somewhat sad story. Sounds like a good listen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I felt like I really knew Reena by the end of the book! My heart broke for her and what she'd lost, but I was excited about the new future she would have with Hannah.

      Delete
  10. So glad to see your review of this one, Lindsi. This is the one by Cotugno that I've owned the longest (years!) and yet I've read everything by her *except* this one. Go figure. One of the things I appreciate about Cotugno is that she doesn't force her characters to be likable. They don't always do the right thing, they screw up, they take the wrong path, make the wrong decision. But, that's real life. Young people (well, all people) don't always get it right the first time. Or the second or third time. They stumble along the way and make poor choices and hopefully learn and do better. And I find that much more interesting to read about than perfect characters who always, always do the right thing. Great review!
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! This is my first Cotungo book and I really enjoyed it! Like you said, people make mistakes and that's life. It was such an honest story that really touched on a difficult topic. I doubt a teen pregnancy would be easy on anyone, and I liked that the author showed us how Reena lived her life before and after having a baby.

      Since you've read all of her other books, which one is your favorite? I definitely want to read more by this author, but I don't know where to start!

      Delete
    2. I think my favorite is Top Ten, her most recent release. After that it would be 99 Days. Heads up that 99 Days seems to be a love it or hate it book. A lot of readers latch on to the "cheating" aspect and rip it to shreds. But, like I mentioned before, I saw it as an example of real life. Of making a choice and then being faced with the consequences. There's a sequel to that one coming out in May. The only one I haven't really cared for is Fireworks. It just fell flat for me. Can't wait to see what you read next! :)

      Delete
    3. Thank you! I'll look into those!

      Yes, reading about someone cheating or being unfaithful would grate on my nerves, but that happens. It's something real people struggle with every day. I love that Cotugno (I realize now I misspelled her name in my comment before this--please ignore, lol) focuses on issues that people actually have. There isn't anything fantastical about it, it just is. I get that people might be angry about cheating, and they should be, but they should also hope for change and be understanding. We all make mistakes, and no one can claim differently. It's what we do with those mistakes that matters.

      Delete
  11. I don't know whether I'd want to read this book or not now, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just said this to Aimee (↓), but despite my frustrations with some of the characters, I felt moved by this book. It touched my heart. I felt her sadness and joy, her struggles and success, and the determination she felt a the end. Reena has had to go through so much so quickly, and it would be hard for anyone. While disappointed, her family has been there for her, but we also get to see the strain her decisions had on them. It could be frustrating to read at times, but I had to remind myself that she was still a child in high school, so her choices reflect that.

      Delete
  12. I'm so happy you ended up enjoying this (and that you've revealed your name, Lindsi)! Personally I didn't like it, for the "didn'ts" you mentioned in your review, but I can see how you can find yourself liking it! <3

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wasn't trying to hide my name, lol! I was just trying to make everything more uniform when it came to my blog. L is like a nickname I've had for ages. I think it has do with the spelling of my name... some people forget it's weird at the end. 🤷 It was nice of you to notice!

      Hey, we all love different books, and that's what makes them so great. There's something for everyone! I enjoyed the story of Reena's life and her experiences. I'm sure there are people out there that can relate to her decisions and the things that she went through, but I can also see how realistic characters can sometimes makes us crazy. We want to shout at them to do better and make different choices, but in the end we have no sway over what they do.

      I don't know... it felt like this book touched my heart in some way, and I know it will have a lasting impact.

      Delete
  13. I don't know if Katie Cotugno is for me. I've only read one of her books, but by reading this review, I honestly don't think this one would be for me either. The issues I had with that book sound too similar to some of the "small" things that bothered you here. But I'm glad you liked it overall!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think those things were supposed to bother me! They made the story feel real and believable. The characters were flawed and acted their age, and we get to see how they dealt with the aftermath of their decisions.

      I'm sorry you didn't enjoy her other book! It's a good thing the world is filled with books, lol. There's something for everyone!

      Delete
  14. I read my first Katie Cotugno book late last year (Top Ten) and liked it- I thought it had heart and captured the teenager feel pretty well. She alternated POV's and timeframes in that one and I enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're the second person to mention Top Ten, so I think that will be my next Cotugno book! How to Love was solely from Reena's perspective, but I think I'd like adding another POV to the mix!

      "I thought it had heart and captured the teenager feel pretty well." That statement could also apply to this book! Well said, sir!

      Delete
  15. I did really like Reena and I love Cotugno's writing but for some reason her romances are always NOT for me. Triangles, jerky guys ... hoping just once she writes a romance I can root for!
    Jen Ryland Reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm okay with not liking a romance! We all have a type, and maybe they're just not mine! It matters that he was Reena's type, whether or not I agreed with it, so her decisions reflected that.

      I haven't read her other books, but I would like a romance I can get behind, lol. It's okay if I can't, but that adds a dreamy aspect to the book. I'm happy with a wonderful story!

      Hate triangles, ugh.

      Delete
  16. I generally like Cotugno's books but haven't read this one yet. I need to get to it!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! It's such a sincere story! It hurts to watch, but you just need to know what happens...

      Delete
  17. Oh that was a lovely review :) I have read 99 days by the author and found it quite enjoyable, maybe I will have to give that one a try as well :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I've heard 99 Days and Top Ten are good ones to try. I'm hoping to get to them soon. This one was wonderful!

      Delete
  18. Since I really like the contemporary genre, I feel like I would like to give one of Katie's books a chance at some point. But I read all of this so-so reviews, which I think it what has held me back. Appreciate your review, Lindsi!! Thanks for sharing. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like a lot of her books get so-so reviews because she writes characters that are not always likeable. They make bad decisions and then have to deal with the consequences, and we get to see how they choose to live their lives after The Big Mistake. I feel like her stories are raw and realistic, but you should definitely try one of her books and see for yourself!

      Delete

Comments are like buttons, you don't want to miss one! Please check the "notify me" box at the bottom so you don't miss my response.