From 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 actually got an ARC of this at BEA this year but didn't get around to finishing it until now. I don't really know why. I must be crazy because this book was SO GOOD.
How to Love is not what I was expecting at all. When I first saw the cover I thought it would be a light, fun contemporary romance, but this wasn't the case. It's the kind of contemporary that sucks you in immediately. I couldn't help but be emotionally invested in the characters from the start. How to Love also deals with the serious issue of being a teenage mother. Usually I'm reluctant when it comes to books that deal with teen pregnancy because it can be handled in a way that makes the book seem really heavy. This wasn't like that at all.
Reena loves her daughter Hannah more than anything else and says so multiple times during the book. She doesn't regret having her and certainly doesn't hold anything against her daughter. The way the book was told with alternating chapters from Reena's life Before and her life After really helped to move the story along too. It showed just how much things had changed for Reena in the two years between Sawyer leaving and him reappearing. I also loved how matter of fact everything about Hannah was in the After chapters too. Reena is a good, caring mother and because she didn't feel weird about having a kid, it didn't feel weird to the reader either.
I also really liked the relationship between Reena and Sawyer. It was complicated and messy and they both screwed up. Neither one of them was blame-free or perfect and they both acted like jerks to each other. But at the same time, they obviously cared about each other throughout the entire thing. There were times where I wanted to shake Sawyer because he was being a total jerk, but then the next second he would do something adorable and I would go right back to liking him again.
Reena and Sawyer are both very sarcastic, snarky characters. I loved the banter between them and even the times when they were fighting were entertaining to read about because they were both full of such witty comebacks. Also, the fact that Reena quoted the line from Julius Caesar that inspired the title for The Fault in Our Stars may or may not have made me love her even more, I'm just saying.
Besides dealing with her feelings for Sawyer, Reena also had to deal with some family issues. While both of them come from loving families, their parents are also devout Catholics. This led to some less than desirable effects on Reena's relationship with her parents and also on her relationship with Sawyer's parents. How to Love is focused just as much on Reena and her parents learning just how a family is supposed to love each other as it is on her relationship to Sawyer.
How to Love is the kind of book that I know is going to stick with me for awhile. It was so well written and once I got into the story I couldn't put it down. I cared about what happened to the characters and wanted Reena and Sawyer to be together at the end no matter what else happened in between. I was really impressed with the debut from Katie Cotugno and I will definitely be reading any future projects of hers! She's got herself a fan!