caren reads.

How to Love

How to Love - Katie Cotugno This will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.This book keeps sending me back to that old quote, the one that says something about following the same path, or doing the same thing, and expecting a different result. Most people would say that’s insanity, but for Reena Montero, it’s her life. For as long as she can remember, she’s been in love with Sawyer LeGrande. Older, beautiful and to her, totally unattainable. He was everything she ever thought she wanted.That is, until she turned fifteen and suddenly he was buying her ice cream and kissing her on the hood of his jeep.The very same night, Sawyer’s girlfriend—who also happens to be Reena’s ex best friend—dies tragically, damaging one innocent girl and an already messed up boy, which sends them both down a path neither expects...Told in alternating points of view between the Before and the After, we’re instantly thrust into the end of their first story and the beginning of their future. Reena’s eighteen, and she hasn’t seen Sawyer in two very long, very hard years.She’s been a little busy giving up on her dreams to raise their daughter.I imagine letting him dangle there indefinitely, a hanged man, but in the end I’m the one who breaks first. “Hannah,” I supply, wondering what else his mother told him. I can’t stop staring at his face. “Her name is Hannah.”“Yeah. I mean.” Sawyer looks uncomfortable, like he’s waiting for something else to happen. For me to just come out and say it, maybe—Welcome back, how was your trip, we made a baby—but I keep my jaw clamped firmly shut. Let him wonder for once, I think meanly. Let him sweat it out for a change.For me, learning that Sawyer had left her with a baby was unforgivable move number one. My disdain for him only grew as I continued to turn the pages. And while Katie Cotugno’s writing is powerful and fresh, her characters painfully real, when I read a book about love, I want to fall in love right along with them. I want to feel that burn in my chest and the flutters in my stomach. I want to cry with them, swoon with them, love with them. But as I continued reading this, that’s not really what happened for me. While there were some clenches and some swoons and even a few tears, in the end, I just didn’t really like either of these characters, nor did I like them together.Nope. I was rooting for them to finally grow up.To me, their relationship was the epitome of toxic, before and after. A girl too afraid to go out and find a man better than the boy she fell in love with when she was a kid, and a boy who was so lost he had no idea what he wanted. Or at least, one who never made me trust that he did. Even after he came back, nothing proved to me that he’d changed. And Reena, while she’d been through hell and back raising a kid at sixteen, she fell right back into the same patterns. Right back into him. She hurt her sweet boyfriend, her best friend and her family in the process. She was a bit of a brat, and a liar, and Sawyer was, too. He was manipulative and just, scary. I didn't see the appeal. The small, sweet things he did were so overshadowed by the huge, terrible things.Which is why I just didn’t get it.Second chances are great—and I’m all for allowing someone to atone for their sins, but you have to work for it. And that was what I didn’t feel, at all. Maybe because we didn’t see into Sawyer’s head. Maybe because of the way in which this story is told, where we had to wait until the very end to see any actual progression in the characters. Maybe it’s because of my own personal experiences with a now dead best-friend who I lost over a boy. I’m not sure. I just know that while this was frighteningly real and powerfully written…it didn’t end the way I would have hoped. Even if it did all come together, and every question I had—mostly—got answered, the damage was already done and my opinions on each of them were already not that great.So I’m left wondering only one thing now that it’s over: how long was it until he left her again?

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