How to Love by Katie Cotugno

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How to Love by Katie Cotugno

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Kenzie Millar
Reviewed by Kenzie Millar
Summary: Reena has always been in love with Sawyer. But he has never noticed her. Until he does. Three years later and Reena is still dealing with the consequences of their relationship, her daughter Hannah. So when Sawyer comes back into her life, it's safe to say she's a little worried about repeating past mistakes.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782060000

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Katie Cotugno's debut novel How to Love is, unsurprisingly, all about love. It has at its centre Reena and Sawyer, a gritty portrayal of first love. But it also has family love, friendship, and all those other kinds of loves.

Reena has loved Sawyer for years. Her and her best friend, Allie, constantly analyse his behaviour, clothes, new hair styles. He is her father's godson and always around her house and the restaurant they both work at. But he would never notice her, because he is Sawyer LeGrande. Cotugno moves between this Reena, fifteen and besotted, to three years later. In these 'After' sections, Reena is no longer a young girl with the biggest crush on earth. Instead she is a teen mother. All the plans she and her family made for her life have changed. Instead she still lives at home, with her daughter Hannah, carrying all this weight on her own. And it is now that Sawyer comes back into town. She hasn't seen him since he left town, and left her behind - pregnant.

The book flips between 'Before' and 'After' with great pacing. Obviously the 'After' section reveals that Sawyer did in fact notice Reena, but we are still left wondering how, what happened, and why he left. I was quite surprised that Cotugno was able to keep each of these chapters around the same length, and with the same amount of interest for each side. Usually, I find I am less interested in either the before or after. But both sections were well written and I liked jumping between the two.

The cast of characters is also very good. Reena's voice is different in the two sections. It is clear that having her daughter has changed her. She has had to grow up. She is a bit of a social recluse in the 'Before' sections, but not in the way many teen heroines can be. It's not that she is really oh-so beautiful but just doesn't realise it (although there is an element of that). In fact, it has nothing to do with looks, it is just she doesn’t enjoy the social scene of high school. As her friend, Allie, becomes more interested in drinking, partying, and all those other grown up things, Reena admits to the reader that she just doesn't feel comfortable in those situations. I liked that she had the confidence to be frank about that. I also like that despite being clever and not liking the party scene, she still makes mistakes like any teenager. More than anything, Cotugno shows just how messed up love can be. Reena moves from an all timely crush on her idea of Sawyer, to actually finding out what Sawyer is like.

I also liked Sawyer and the other characters. Sawyer is a teenage boy, flaws and all. He is interesting, complicated, and like Reena, shows great development between the two sections. Just as Reena has to see beyond his good looks and charm, so does the reader. One of the main things that kept me reading was wanting to know, who is the real Sawyer? What is he going to turn out like? Cotugno also does a great job with the families. She shows how religion affects someone in Reena's situation. Reena's dad seriously struggles with his daughter’s pregnancy. He is not some horrible monster, but he is an interesting character. Cotugno shows that just because you are writing for teens, you can have complex characters with a range of motivations. Everything does not have to be black and white.

There were some moments in the book that could have felt a little overdramatic. A lot of big events do happen (teen pregnancy being just one). But I think the book is written well around these. Yes, they are dramatic. As is life. Sometimes big events do happen, and I think Cotugno handles these big events extremely well and realistically.

If you like your teen romance with a bit more grit, like Cotugno, you have to check out Diary of a Crush: French Kiss by Sarra Manning.

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Buy How to Love by Katie Cotugno at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How to Love by Katie Cotugno at


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