Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Title: How to Love 
Author: Katie Cotugno
Format I Read: Kindle
Pages: 389
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Stars: 2
Goodreads Link

Okay, so I know I was warned about this book… But I still didn’t expect it to be this ugh. All of the reviews ranted about what a disappointment this book was, how unlikable Sawyer was, and how difficult the book was to get through. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. I borrowed it from Overdrive on a whim right before going away on my trip to Europe. To my consternation, the reviews were correct.

For those who are unfamiliar with How to Love:

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?

Basically, the book alternated between two time frames: before the baby and after the baby. Or essentially before Sawyer left and after Sawyer left. These two time frames were both terrible in their own way. I’ll tackle this review with two prongs: my complaints about before and my complaints about after.

Before: Every one of these chapters left me wanting to slam Reena’s head against the wall. I could not, for the life of me, understand why she was still with Sawyer. She had the brightest future ahead of her: Northwestern, traveling the world, writing about her adventures. Yet she allowed herself to be trapped by Sawyer. She allowed herself to be turned into a wretched person, someone who lies, someone who skips school, someone who goes behind her family’s backs. All for a boy. I couldn’t handle watching her destruction. I wanted to rip my hair out, honestly.

After: These chapters also made me want to slam Reena’s head against the wall. She built a good, solid life for herself after Sawyer left her. Sure, her life wasn’t perfect. She’s stuck at a community college instead of Northwestern. She’s still waiting tables at her dad’s restaurant instead of traveling the world and writing about it. But she still has a good life. She has a reliable, kind boyfriend. She has a best friend she can rely on (Shelby, the only good character in the novel). And she’s a great mother. Her relationship and her care for Hannah, her baby, was one of the few good things about this book. Yet she nearly throws it all away for Sawyer. Again. This book was just such a broken record. She didn’t learn from her mistakes at all. She had no strength, no backbone. One second she’s insisting that she’ll never forgive Sawyer, the next second she’s betraying her boyfriend and jumping Sawyer’s bones. It was like watching a fire rip through a forest, watching this destruction of the life she created.

Yeah, there were a few good parts to the book. I liked the travel writing idea. I loved Shelby, as she was the only rational and good character. The ending was somewhat satisfying. But this book really dragged on. If I wasn’t traveling myself (and in need of something to occupy my time), I probably would’ve DNF’d it. The few good qualities weren’t worth the pain of reading this.

Before I go though: one thing I admired about the book was the way it dealt with Shelby’s sexuality. She was a lesbian, yeah. But she wasn’t a stereotype. She was just another character. Her sexuality was just one of her many characteristics; it didn’t define her. That was really, truly refreshing.

Unfortunately, I still have to give this book 2 stars. It would’ve been 1 star, but Shelby and the ending allowed it to scrape by with 2 stars. If you enjoy turmoil and watching people self-destruct, feel free to check this book out. I, personally, have a very low tolerance for that, so I didn’t enjoy this novel. It reminded me of Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, in the way that Reena and Sawyer’s relationship was just so unhealthy and destructive. If that type of romance (and book) is your cup of tea, definitely pick this novel up.