Angela's Reviews > How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno
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Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath

Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.

HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.

In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.

Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.

In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.

Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.

***

Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future.
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Quotes Angela Liked

Katie Cotugno
“The hideous thing is this: I want to forgive him. Even after everything, I do. A baby before my 17th birthday and a future as lonely as the surface of the moon and still the sight of him feels like a homecoming, like a song I used to know but somehow forgot.”
Katie Cotugno, How to Love


Reading Progress

May 10, 2013 – Started Reading
May 10, 2013 – Shelved
May 10, 2013 –
25.0% "Oh, people. THIS BOOK. Please keep it up, book, and I will love you forever."
May 11, 2013 –
58.0% "Wow, this continues to be so good. Nuance and character development and all that good stuff."
May 12, 2013 –
74.0% "This book continues to impress. I love how the characters are flawed and the romance isn't romanticized but you still sympathize with the characters."
May 13, 2013 –
78.0%
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: good-ones
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: best-endings
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: triggering-topics
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: arc
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: impressive-writing
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: read-in-2013
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: 5-stars
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: makes-you-think
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: contemporary
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: issues
May 13, 2013 – Shelved as: workshop-2013
May 13, 2013 – Finished Reading
June 27, 2013 – Shelved as: edelweiss-or-netgalley
September 30, 2013 – Shelved as: vine
June 9, 2014 – Shelved as: workshop-2014

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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Wendy Darling Wow, really? I need to get ahold of this, then. I saw a couple of other reviews this week that caught my attention, too.


Angela Yes, REALLY. :) I don't think everyone else will love it like I did and there were a few quirks in the writing, but I couldn't find any real flaws with it. It reminded me significantly of Laura McNeal's style and voice in DARK WATER, my last five-star read.


After the semester is done next week and I have all of my grades in, I hope to write a review for this while it's still fresh in my mind. I got it through Edelweiss because I'm on autoapprove for Harper titles.


Sandy WOW! When I saw your rating, I thought I can't remember the last time I saw Angela give a book five stars. Well, now I know it's been TWO YEARS!


Angela Sandy wrote: "WOW! When I saw your rating, I thought I can't remember the last time I saw Angela give a book five stars. Well, now I know it's been TWO YEARS!"

Hah, it has been a long while. I got this as an e-galley on Edelweiss, and it was just so, so good. If I could lend it to you, I would, because I think you would adore it also. :)


Faye, la Patata Reading this right now and can't wait!! :D


Angela Faye (The Social Potato) wrote: "Reading this right now and can't wait!! :D"

It's sooo good...at least in my opinion. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Angela Ladies, I finally wrote my review for this so I could put in online via Amazon Vine. :)


message 8: by Angela (last edited Oct 01, 2013 04:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angela Sarah wrote: "Five stars!?! Wow!!! I was going to perhaps skip this one because books involving teen pregnancy turn me off, but you have just convinced me to give it a chance!"

I can't guarantee that others will love it like I do, but I was just totally and completely blown away by the writing. I think this will appeal most to a crowd that likes literary, lyrical writing more than the typical commercial YA out there, but because of that, I think it has a lot of cross-over appeal to adult audiences. If you do read it, I'd love to know what you think! :)


message 9: by Sandy (last edited Oct 01, 2013 10:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sandy Love the review, Angela! I'm really looking forward to this one. I'm a sucker for those "love lost and found again" stories, and knowing this one is well-written makes me even more excited.


message 10: by Angela (last edited Oct 01, 2013 06:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angela Sandy wrote: "Love the review, Angela! I'm really looking forward to this one. I'm a sucker for those "love lost and found again" stories, and knowing this one is well-written makes me even more excited.""

Awww, thanks, Sandy! Even though I read the book almost five months ago, the review was easy to write because I took good notes at that time *and* because I loved the novel so much. Knowing my reviews, I'm sure you could tell that this might be the most effusive I've ever been about a novel, or at least the most I have been in a very long while! :) The writing is just so gorgeous, and I think you'd love it. If you do ever read it, I'd love to know your thoughts!

P.S. Hope things are going well for you in general!


Harpercollins Canada Wow, thanks for the great review!


Angela Harpercollins wrote: "Wow, thanks for the great review!"

You're welcome! Thanks for publishing such a wonderful author. :)


Amber Hicks can someone answer my question please... how old is the girl in this book? and how old was she when she got pregnant? and what age group do you think this book is best for?


Angela @Amber: It's been a year since I read the book, so I can't give you specific ages, but I can guesstimate. I would say that Reena is about 15 or in 10th grade in the "Before" sections (when she gets pregnant) and about 18 or 12th grade in the "After" sections. I think this book is best for readers who are 15/16 and older. Some of my 10th grade students read it this year and really enjoyed it, just as I did.


Lena ♫ ♪ The ebook is currently $0.99. Not sure if that's something that interests you. :)


Angela Lena ♫ ♪ wrote: "The ebook is currently $0.99. Not sure if that's something that interests you. :)"

Thanks for the tip, Lena! I have my own beautiful hardcover copy, though, so I'm covered. :)


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