Wednesday 16 October 2013

How to Love - Katie Cotugno

Pages: 389
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: 3rd October 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

This is a love story. But it’s not what you think. This is not a first kiss, or a first date. This is not love at first sight.

This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love.

This is the complicated route to happiness that follows.

This is real.  This is like. This is how to love.

How to Love blew me away and put Katie Cotugno straight on my auto-buy list. This novel is a heart-breaking and realistic portrayal of love in its messiest, most-complicated and agonising beauty. Gorgeous stuff.

I was really surprised to find that Katie Cotugno told Reena and Sawyer’s story in two separate sections: before Sawyer left, and after he returned. I was immediately sucked into their lives and their tumultuous story. The way that they both changed and grew over the tree year gap was shocking, but I guess a lot happened to each of them.

I loved the way that even though Reena has a bitter streak, is a responsible mother and keeps her feelings even closer to her chest, there’s still the vulnerability and youngness of the fifteen year old girl she was in the before chapters. That was especially obvious when Sawyer’s on the scene. In the beginning, Sawyer is a selfish, destructive and obsession-inducing guy that all parents are terrified of. The Sawyer that returned three years later was a new man, but still had the cheekiness and addictiveness that Reena fell for the first time around. In both circumstances, they worked well together, even if they weren’t entirely good for each other all of the time and I think that’s one of the things that made me fall so in love with How to Love: there’s a gritty realism and sadness about their relationship that you can imagine happening to a friend, or even yourself.

As expected, it was largely Reena having Hannah that changed her viewpoint and reactions to the world. I can’t begin to imagine having a child at sixteen, even though I’ve read about it countless times. I really loved that Hannah wasn’t just an accessory to the story; she was just as part of it as Sawyer, Reena, Allie, Shelby and everyone was. The connection between her and Reena was heartfelt and lovely. I really enjoyed seeing a teenage pregnancy after the pregnancy and the birth; the aftermath of the big decision and reveal, if you like. Seeing how she actually dealt with having a small human completely reliant on her at such a young age is something I can’t remember reading about since Megan3 by Mary Hooper which I read years and years ago. I definitely prefer that angle of the storyline – it’s much more interesting.

Reena’s love for travel writing is something you don’t see much of outside of a creative writing classroom so it was brilliant to read about it from an outside perspective. As I haven’t travelled very much, I never really clicked with it in my classes but I love reading it. It was one of the things that kept her through her Sawyer issues, her pregnancy and the touch days of early motherhood: she kept going back to it. I’ve always wanted to see as much of the world as possible so I completely understood her need to get out and so as I finished How to Love I made a pretty big decision. Like Reena I’m unhappy with my position in the world right now. My job is boring and pointless and I hate being confined at home, so I’m going to work for as long as  I can bear, save up some money and if I don’t have a job in publishing by then, I’m leaving. I’m either go around Europe, or hopefully to the States if I can afford it. Now I’m going to start planning my trips like Reena did.

How to Love is without doubt one of my favourite books of the year. I implore every single one of you to go out, buy a copy and sink into Reena and Sawyer’s story. Enjoy.

Thanks to Quercus for sending me a copy to review.



  1. This sounds amazing!

    I love that it's inspired / encouraged you to want to go travelling - good luck with your planning!

    I am now doing as I'm told - onto the wishlist it goes :)

  2. Wow, glowing review! Might read this next instead of Under My Hat!

  3. Ooh so thrilled that you love this, will need to get my hand on a copy! I love that it has motivated you too :-)

  4. I really enjoyed this one too. Brilliant, thorough YA.


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