How To Love by Katie Cotugno

How To Love by Katie Cotugno

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1st 2013
Finished copy from Publisher
389 pages
Purchase on AmazonThe Book Depository


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.

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.

How To Love? How about ‘How To Review’  because honestly- I’m a little speechless about this one and I’m not sure what words to use or how to say them. Well, here goes. *takes deep breath* I loved this book. I really really did. It captured my heart in unexpected ways and I found myself admiring the lovely writing and the even lovelier story. It shows how love is truly such a complex feeling and makes the reader ultimately believe in second chances.

This beautiful debut is all about imperfection, and that’s what makes it so perfect as a contemporary. It captures how messy human emotions are, how we make many mistakes in our lives but it tells us that there is hope and there is love and that’s what matters.

“I wondered what it was like to be that kind of person- the kind that wasn’t always worried about what might happen, about what people might think or every disaster that could potentially befall him a dozen steps down the road.”

Katie Cotugno’s characters are flawed and just so real. So human. Reena, the main character, is certifiably good; she’s intelligent, nice, and witty. She has dreams, of leaving town and going places. She isn’t good with crowds as she’s reserved and would rather keep to herself or spend time with her best friend. Sawyer, is the opposite; he’s a bad boy who screams ‘trouble’- likes to party, booze it up, and attracts a handful of girls. He can come off as obnoxious and he’s not exactly the best influence for Reena. Yet the two are drawn together and they fall in love- a messy, tangled love. Never have the words ‘sweetest downfall’ been so perfect for a couple. Their romance, broken and distorted as it was, really could not have been more true and tangible for me.

Reena’s story was told in before and afters of her pregnancy. I was doubtful at first whether this kind of writing style would fit the book but it did. The alternate chapters were expertly done, and I found that the before was so distinct from the after. Both Reena and Sawyer had become more mature and you understand how time and experience have changed them. Still, Reena had a heavy heart, after going through so much. Her angst and bitterness over being left by Sawyer was all too present. Despite never having gone through what she had, I felt her emotions and understood her confusion. Her feelings were so honest that it was so easy to connect with her and her inability to let Sawyer back inside her heart. We are left wondering whether the two will ever find their way to fall back in love for the second time. This had me turning pages constantly- I couldn’t put the book down. I rooted for Reena and Sawyer so so much and despite sometimes being frustrated with both of them, I wanted, more than anything, a happy ever after for the two.

Aside from the main characters, I loved Shelby, Reena’s best friend. The two shared an irreplaceable, genuine friendship and Shelby is awesome, supportive, and such a good friend. She had a sense of humor, which was enjoyable, but more importantly, she brings Reena back to earth, pointing out the mistakes she made or was about to make. I also liked Aaron, Shelby’s brother, and a part of me was rather upset for him because he was a really sweet guy. The characterization of Reena’s family was portrayed really well too, specifically her relationship with her dad. While they weren’t a highly dysfunctional family, they had issues, the kind of issues you get when you deal with a teenage pregnancy. I liked how these were present, because again, the story was made more real by these problems. Lastly, I liked reading about Reena with her daughter, Hannah, and I found myself admiring Reena more as I saw how she bravely raised her daughter alone.

“And still just the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.”

This book is definitely one of the cases where in I wish there was a sequel, because I just fell in love with the characters so much and wanted more. Nonetheless, I treasured the ending- it was promising, heartening and it was a great resolution. How To Love was a stunning read. The writing was truly amazing but the story and the characters are what did it for me. It’s wonderful as a YA novel but I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a lovely, touching contemporary.


Hazel @ Stay Bookish

Hazel Ureta is an advocate of stories. She is the blogger and Editor-In-Chief of Stay Bookish because she loves talking about books. She enjoys reading Young Adult novels the most and writes them too.
if you enjoyed reading this post

Did you enjoy reading this post?

Subscribe now to receive fabulous freebies and get the latest bookish reviews and features straight into your inbox.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.


  1. Rachel @ hello, chelly. on October 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I gave this book 5 stars too and your review is exactly how I felt!! Even though I’ve never been in Reena’s situation, I felt her emotions so deeply. It’s just such a beautiful book. Great review!! :)

  2. Evie on October 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Oh boy! I’ve had a very different experience with this one :) I guess you could say I’m on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to How To Love. My main issue with this book was the characters and how little personal growth they showed at the end of the story. Like they haven’t learned anything from their mistakes (and we know they made many of them). I just couldn’t connect with the story, or the characters, at all. But I’m glad you had such an amazing time with this book :) Great review!

  3. Becca @ Nawanda Files on October 18, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    I loved Shelby as well! She was the amazing supportive best friend. I was really glad that Reena had Shelby in her life. And the writing is really beautiful for this one. But when I read it, I just couldn’t connect that much to Sawyer. Even so, I’m glad this book spoke to you so much!

  4. Miranda @ Tempest Books on October 19, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I got a copy of this from the publisher as well, and I can’t wait to read it! I’m kind of backlogged in review books right now, but I have a really good feeling about this one…especially after your review!

  5. Alyssa on October 19, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    The publisher sent me an ARC of this book (in which I haven’t read yet) but I am planning to read as many books as I can as soon as our sembreak will start (which I think will start next week?). I am so excited to read this book! It sounds amazing.

  6. Alicia on October 19, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve just finished How to Love recently and… I regret to say that I didn’t love it as much as you did! Sawyer really got on my nerves and OH BOY THAT GUY IS A HELL OF A JERK D: I thought Reena’s story was very well-written, most of the characters are real and flawed, and I love how the story is written in a “before-after” way, but I couldn’t understand Sawyer at all so :/ I’m sure many others will love this book though!

  7. Kyle Magistrado on October 20, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I’ve been very unsure of this book after the quite negative reviews it garnered after its release. But gradually, as more people get to read it, I’m starting to see a lot of good & very positive feedback.

    I’ll definitely read this once I get my copy. The quotes you inserted were just… <3. I fell in love! This review was the last push I needed to be motivated to read the book. :)

    Kyle @ The Selkie Reads Stories

  8. Fatma Shahin on December 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    loved this contemporary!

  9. […] How To Love by Katie Cotugno (Review + Story […]

  10. Allen Grace on December 19, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I am excited to read this! Your book review totally sold me out. I hope I’ll love it as much as you did. I love the cover, it’s as lovely as it is alluring.

  11. Princess Marie Aquino on December 29, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Your review on this book made me add it to my next to-read list! :)

  12. Faith Alfaro on January 7, 2014 at 5:19 am

    I’ve always been a sucker for such romantic plots. This is definitely a mus-try for me. I wonder if I can get an eBook version of it.

    Kudos to your wonderful reviews btw. Keep it up! ;-)

  13. Lou on January 23, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Love this one looking forward to read it.

  14. Michelle A. on January 29, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I loved this book, too! And I think I loved it all the more because it was so surprising. I was hoping for a sweet love story about redemption, but it was so much more. Cannot wait for more books by Katie Cotugno!

  15. Yusra on February 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I never thought I’d put this book in my TBR but seeing so many people giving it such good reviews (including yourself), I’m for sure going to pick it up! Sounds like a wonderful read!

  16. Cali W. on February 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Wow I really need to read this book for Valentines day too. <3

    • Hazel @ Stay Bookish on February 9, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Do it! It’s such a heartwarming read and it’s perf for V-day!

  17. Jane Pauline Hintay on April 3, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I love this book and its cover!! Everything’s so perfect except…Sawyer huhu I just couldn’t understand him lol
    Anw, Yey for this nice review :)

  18. Jayvee on April 8, 2014 at 5:45 am

    I’m almost freaking out because I could never find this book anywhere and it would be lovely to read it!

  19. lea on February 3, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    thanks for the review. addin it to my TBR!

  20. […] started writing How To Love when she was a sixteen year old girl. At the time, she wanted to tell people the story of two […]

  21. kenny campos on July 8, 2015 at 4:13 am

    I know I’m so late, I should’ve known this book before! Reading your review on this book really makes me want to grab it right now and shut myself off in my room and let myself suck into their world, I love Katie the moment I saw her on her interview with the other authors during her stay in Manila. She’s just as real as her writings :)

  22. Kimberly B on October 28, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I loved this book! It was so good. All the characters seemed so real and, to be honest, I finished the book in about two hours because I was so caught up.

Leave a Comment