ARC REVIEW: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Title: How to Love
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Pages: 389, Hardcover
Source: ARC obtained at BEA

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.

There is no rhyme or reason to how one person feels about another. You like who you like, amiriight? The things that often connect two people are not always easily explained or understood, just as are the things that often tear two people apart. Feelings are messy. Feelings don’t always make sense.

It’s not exactly clear what draws Serena and Sawyer together. After all, they couldn’t be more opposite. But their attraction is so strong it is almost tangible.  I wouldn’t exactly say that they work well together but there is no doubt that they care about each other immensely. And when it comes down to it, they are the only two people that have to get it.

How to Love is told in the “Before” and the “After”. In the “Before” part of the story, Sawyer and Serena are like two oncoming trains. You can see that collision is inevitable, and when it happens it is explosive, and messy and confusing. And as is the case with any train wreck, witnesses can’t look away. Readers know what is going to happen to their relationship; not only does the synopsis tell us but we see the “After” unfold at the same time. Yet the story is still irresistible. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly of relationships. We see two people who love each other so much it hurts.

In the “After” part of the story, Sawyer and Serena are thrust together yet again in the wake of Sawyer’s sudden return. Serena tries not to fall into the same destructive patters with Sawyer but finds it difficult to resist his charms. But what she doesn’t account for is that maybe he’s changed. The “After” is just as heartfelt as the “Before”. Timing and circumstance were against them in the past but things are different now. They get a second chance.

I can see readers relating to Sawyer and/or Serena and/or their situation in at least some way. I found it easy to connect with the feelings in the story even though I've never been in a similar situation (teenage pregnancy and destructive relationships and all that). Speaking of teenage pregnancy, I had no qualms with this aspect of the story. I think it was handled really, really well.

The writing in this book is just beautiful. The way the ending comes together with the “Before” and “After” is pretty perfect. There are just so many feelings and I really enjoyed this read.



  1. I love the line from the synopsis about a couple falling in love twice. And the way the story is told, with the Before and After, sounds like an interesting way to tell it. It's great to hear you connected with the story and that the writing is beautiful. Glad you enjoyed it, I'll have to read it soon! ~Pam

  2. You are way more forgiving than I with this book. I just...I wish I'd liked it more. Great review, Nicole. ;)

  3. This one sounds so good! I'll have to read it soon. I don't do contemporary, heavy subject books often, but this one sounds like it would be up my alley. It sounds sad and happy at the same time! Great review!

  4. The more I read about this story, the less easily I am able to dismiss it. At first I thought it sounded exactly like the type of YA contemporary that I avoid, but it sounds as though there is quite a bit more to this book. I am also curious what the reading experience is like for the "before" section if readers already know the "after," or at least the immediate "after." Great review - I'll have to keep this one in mind when I do want to read a YA contemporary!

  5. This does sound like a really good contemporary, and before reading your review I wasn't sure that it was for me. But two characters who are like two oncoming trains? SOLD. I also really like Before and After stuff, like in Pandemonium!

  6. I am SO glad you liked this one. I was so nervous for your rating. haha. I was like NO DON'T MAKE ME SAD. And you didn't. Beautiful writing, an interesting couple, and also I love your point: we have no idea why we are attracted/in love with the people we are sometimes. It just happens. I need to buy a copy of this book.

  7. I have this on my TBR pile so I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it. A train wreck that you just can't look away from? I'm sold. Also you are right, feelings are messy, and I love a book that shows that and it's not just all rainbows and butterflies. Great review as always!


Copyright © 2014 The Quiet Concert
Template and Design by New Chapter Designs