Book Talk: How To Love by Katie Cotugno





book synopsis Reena has been in love Sawyer for as long as she can remember as their parents were friends before they were even born. They’ve never been anything more than childhood playmates until one night, when she least expects it, when something happens between them and they find themselves in love — a very messy and imperfect love that is beyond complicated. A story that becomes more complicated when Reena finds herself pregnant and Sawyer has left town. Fast forward a couple years and Reena has had her daughter and is settled into her life now — going to community college, dating and living with her parents. Things are going well, for the most part, until Sawyer shows up in town unexpected. Reena resolves to stay away from him but the pull that has always been there threatens to crumble her resolve.


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I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. One one hand I’m furious with myself for waiting this long to read it but on the other hand I needed this book right now. You may have known I was in a bit of a “THIS IS SO NOT ME” reading year so far in 2014 and I really just needed a book to blow me away. How To Love by Katie Cotugno did the trick — along with another book that I will be talking about soon!

Why was it so awesome?

1. It completely destroyed my thought of “Ehh this is a novel about teen pregnancy” pretty early on: First, this book was SO much more than that. If you looked at this book like “oh god this is going to be a teen pregnancy issue-y book or like a rerun of Teen Mom”…NO..Just NO. It’s a complicated story about love, second chances and forgiveness. Reena may have a baby but this book is so much more than the cliched teen pregnancy stories I’ve come across.

2. I haven’t compulsively read a book like this in a while: I was seriously reading every moment I could — on my phone when I had a few seconds and I even woke up at 5:30 am so I could read it. I think it’s partly in the way it’s told in addition to the fact I was so into the story. It alternate between “Before” and “After”. The Before shows her and Sawyer’s past and really who she was before she got pregnant. The “After” is a couple years later when Sawyer comes back into town and we see she’s already settled into life as a mom. The unraveling of their story was just so gripping and Katie Cotugno gets you BAD with the ending of each chapter. I was RAVENOUS for more. She’d end, let’s say, the BEFORE chapter on a note where I was tempted to just skip the AFTER chapter because I HAD to know what happened next (and vice versa — each one was equally compelling). There are so few books that hook me so bad that after EACH chapter I can’t imagine putting it down. That’s a problem when life demands you still must exist outside of those pages!

3. Reena & Sawyer were two incredibly REAL characters & drew me into their story: These are characters that are going to piss you off probably at times, they are flawed, they are real and they don’t always make the right choice. I LOVED THAT. I don’t know if it’s an unpopular opinion but I LOVED SAWYER. I didn’t always LIKE him and the things he did but I felt the chemistry between them and that there was more to Sawyer. Sometimes I was so frustrated but I felt like I could feel Reena’s resolve not to give into Sawyer but, like Reena, I felt it all crumble. I just loved being tangled in Reena and Sawyer’s messy and complex love story. It was breathtaking at times, I cried, I fumed but I just felt what it was like to be young again and thinking with your heart and sometimes making those mistakes to learn and grow. I also really loved their individual growth — that aspect of the story was just important to me as their love story. They got second chances, opportunities for forgiveness and to come to terms with the past. Also, as a sidenote, I LOVED their banter.

book reviewsHow To Love by Katie Cotugno is a book that shot a line straight to my heart from the beginning and I was so thoroughly enchanted with Reena and Sawyer’s messy yet utterly romantic story that I kept sneaking in moments whenever I could and even set an alarm for 5:30am so I could squeeze in more time. It was beautiful, heartbreaking at times and made my heart just feel so full as I watched these wonderfully flawed characters unravel before me and build themselves back up. I mega loved this book and highly recommend it. Don’t be turned off by the thought that it might be a cliched “teenage pregnancy issues” book because that is NOT at all what this book is.

short book review

HOw To Love Katie Cotugno

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?

The Perpetual Page-Turner


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I love how you’ve structured this review! I can definitely see the “talking about books” rather than “reviewing books” thing going on here πŸ™‚ I was gifted an ARC version of this book, but I’ve been putting it off because I’ve seen a lot of reviews that seem to contradict each other. Sometimes I think it’s adult, but then sometimes I think it’s YA? I can never tell! But either way, I think I’m more interested in reading it now πŸ™‚

    • haha YAY! I’m still playing with what it’s going to look like and it will probably look different now and then…who knows. It felt nice to write this because I wasn’t struggling for something to say and I was just TALKING about it. I think sometimes I forced myself to write a review for books I didn’t have much to say about…and I resented it. But talking about books I want to talk about? SO different and comes easier. I just need to find out away to talk about books that maybe I don’t have a TON to say. We shall see!! I’m excited though.

      SO many reviews contradict each other. Funny thing is I get the points for why some people don’t like it or see things opposite than me. It’s a strange mix of YA and I guess what one would think “New Adult” is if you go by age/perspective. It’s a very interesting story in that way and I loved it. Will be so interested to hear what you think!

  2. This book was actually my biggest disappointment from BEA last year, as everyone else loved it so much that I had really high expectations. I kept finding myself annoyed with the characters a lot, the outcome was very predictable, and it just didn’t work for me.

  3. I’ve just bought this book, so I can’t wait to read it after reading this!

  4. I have read two awesome reviews on this one today, I NEED to read it now!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  5. I have the hardcover at home and am so excited to read it. It’s one of those books that I was excited about as soon as I read the synopsis. One of those book that I just know I’m going to fall in love with. And (this probably makes no sense) for that reason I’ve been putting it off. I do that all the time with books I know I’ll love. I hold off reading them and it’s like prolonging the excitement. I did that with Crash Into You by Katie McGarry (which I’m reading right now – oh, how I love it!) and with Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi (adored it!). I only do that with certain books but How To Love is definitely on that list. Your thoughts on it make me even more excited to pick it up… and soon!

    • I do that toooo. I put off books I was SUPER STOKED ABOUT. I don’t know why either! I hope you do pick it up soon!

  6. I’m glad you enjoyed this book! I really really didn’t–it seems like a lot of how people process the book relies very heavily on how they feel about Sawyer (I was not a fan). The structure is definitely interesting though with how it mashes together a YA and NA story.

    • I totally agree with you! I think how you perceive Sawyer and connect with him affects it greatly. I really really liked him in all of his dysfunctional, crazy glory. I mean, he was shitty. But I felt like I personally SAW him and could understand why Reena was so stuck on him. Even if maybe HS Jamie would have ditched his ass eventually and not forgiven him because I used to be able to hold a grudge like nobody’s business…even if he did change. But I so agree with you. I love seeing other’s thoughts on their relationship and on him because it so affects it and it’s fun to even read critical thoughts on him that differ from mine. I can GET why he didn’t work for some people.

      And yes..I think it’s so interesting how you can’t really label it as one or the other.

  7. I’m so excited you loved this Jamie! I was really looking forward to this and then read a couple of reviews that made it slip down the TBR but my enthusiasm is totally raised again. Can’t wait to dive in now. Great review

    • I hope you love it! It certainly struck a chord with me but funny enough I GET what a lot of the people who didn’t like it mean. But somehow it just translated different for me? I hope that is the case for you too!!

  8. I wasn’t sure what to use the rest of my bday giftcard on, but after your review, I just went and bought this πŸ™‚

    I was going to try the audio, but with the past and present, I wasn’t sure how I’d like I went with the kindle version. I’m so glad you loved this one. I’ve heard it’s really great. πŸ™‚

  9. As you know, I’m psyched you are on the WIN side for this book. I enjoyed it so much, and just want to curl up and experience it all over again. The writing was by far some of the best I’ve ever read and I loved the characters because they were so human.

    • YES the writing was just so excellent and the story…GAH. Definitely one that will be staying on my shelf and I’m so picky about what books stay! THANK YOU FOR BEING MY EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AFTER FINISHING hahah

  10. Yes. To everything you said. You have reminded me that I need to start pushing this on some of my teens. Made me want to read it again….

    • I think this book is SO underrated! I want to keep my copy but also kind of want to donate it to my library because I’m pretty sure they don’t have it!

  11. I’m so glad you loved this, I agree with every point you made! I’ve been sad to hear so many negative reviews or DNF’s with this one and I just don’t get it! πŸ™ I LOVED how the story was told, it was constructed so beautifully to parallel different things. Just gorgeous! I enjoyed your review!

    • AH I know! It’s so hard to see really awful reviews/DNF for a book you love so hard. The DNFs are hard because I think there is so much good growth throughout the story! YES..the way everything paralleled. It was there would be these really sweet scenes but then the next chapter would remind you of where the current state of things were.

  12. Glad to hear you liked this one – I was unfortunately on the either side of the coin and ended up DNFing. I think it hit a little too close to home for me. I had a number of friends in high school end up pregnant and some of them had boyfriends who ended up taking off leaving them to deal with the baby alone. I think that was a huge sticking point when it came to Sawyer for me and I just couldn’t get past it.

    • Ah sometimes it’s so hard to read things that do resonate so personally! Hard to see past it. I’ve been there! That’s why reading is so wonderful — not one reading experience is the same and our own experiences/values factor into our reading! You do find out why Sawyer left at the end and I’m curious how you’d feel/if it would change the way you felt.

  13. YAY I loved this one too, and I was surprised that I did!

  14. Waking up early to read a book is a sure sign that it is a WINNER.

    • RIGHT? Lately I’ve been SUCKING when it comes to waking up early to do things but not when it came to this book!

  15. I *almost* didn’t read this because, like you said, I thought it was going to be a book all about teen pregnancy. I’ve read books on the subject before and concluded it’s not my thing, but so many people on Twitter were talking about it that I ended up checking it out. I LOVED it too! Especially her writing style. I was absolutely hooked and enjoyed that it focused on love, family, and mistakes. It’s great to hear you liked it, too!

    • YES it just completely took away that fear I had as soon as I started it. Her writing was excellent and the whole story just was so addicting! Glad you loved this one too!

  16. ahhhh I’m so glad you loved this book!! It was one of my favorites last year and I remember finishing it and just texting and emailing all my friends telling them they had to read it.

    I just connected with Reena on a few personal issues and so I really was able to get her story. And Sawyer… ugh I love the flaws in both characters AND I loved Shelby – she’s the kind of best friend everyone should have.

    Loved reading your thoughts!

    • The flaws just made them SO much more real to me. I believed them as people! SOOO glad I got to this one!!

  17. Awww- Jamie, I hate to admit it, but I absolutely hated this book. Maybe it was where I was when I read it. But I just did not like it. My biggest problem was Sawyer… he didn’t grovel- I found that he was to easily forgiven and didn’t really take any responsibility for his actions. I found that his reaction to finding out that he was a father was not realistic at all. Like really? I dunno. I think it’s just that I’ve read other books similar to How to Love that I found better.

    I am glad that you enjoyed this one so much, and didn’t see that flaws that I did.

    ~Sara @ Just Another Story

    • Yeah, I definitely think that Sawyer becomes the real tipping point to where people fall with this book! I totally agree with you that his reaction to finding out was just so nonchalant and kind of strange. I couldn’t tell if he was just so overwhelmed by it that he was acting aloof or something. I think with the groveling thing it didn’t really bother me because I felt like he maybe wouldn’t have groveled but I think he would have kept trying to earn her respect back slowly but she forgives him. Like I felt like he was trying a bit even though maybe he’s not the kind of dude to really grovel and beg and be dramatic about it all. I saw that ending with him and her leaving on that trip together as a sort of “there’s a lot of ground we have to cover but I feel like you deserve a second chance and I don’t want to waste anymore time making you pay for it/dwelling on it because life is too short” kind of thing. I can’t describe why it didn’t bother me but it’s funny because i can SO understand why it HAS bothered you and others. I love seeing so many different sides to how people read the same book! Thanks for being so willing to share your thoughts with me!

  18. Hey review/blog post twin! Haha I’m so glad you enjoyed this one like me. I agree that the characters were so far from perfect, yet I think that’s what made me like it even more. They felt REAL to me. The story is very heartbreaking, but completely worth it, in my opinion.

  19. Heather says:

    I’m so glad you loved this book! It was so much more than I thought it would be, and had such depth and character development. It was so wonderful to get more than just a Lifetime-movie worthy story that really looked beyond the usual tropes of teen pregnancy and gave a realistic scenario. I agree with you that both Reena and Sawyer were absolutely wonderful even though they both screwed up more than a little. This was such a wonderful story of family and friendship and love and redemption, and all the things!

    • YES that is exactly what I felt like it was going to be…a cliched LIfetime movie special. It was just such a story that had so much depth and I think that’s what made it feel so REAL. She wasn’t just Teenage Mom. She had a whole story that made her feel so real. Redemption! Yes..the perfect word. I love a real redemption story and this really was it.

  20. I think this one is standing out to so many people because the story sounds true to real life. Real life is complicated and messy at times. Relationships aren’t full of insta-love and happily ever afters and I guess this book just brings about a real life romance instead of a completely fictional one.

    I can’t wait to read it.
    Thanks for the great review!

    • I just have to say AMEN to what you wrote. It just felt so messy and real. I love reading my insta love and happily ever afters but sometimes they make me feel like my relationship was/is so messed up. Will and I are so not the perfect little fictional romance and we certainly don’t have crazy issues but we are FLAWED and we make mistakes and sometimes we suck so hard and we’ve gone through ups and downs…but we love each other so much and work well together. It’s nice to see a book that shows that sometimes things are not always the fairytale romances but they end up being this amazing love story in progress and sometimes that is just more romantic to me. If that makes sense.

  21. I have heard so many conflicting things about this book, but the cover keeps drawing me back in. I’m glad to hear it was exactly what you needed, those books are pretty spectacular. My last book like that was These Broken Stars in Sept. Ahh, the memories!

    • I had seen so many conflicting things tooo but I was so glad I took the plunge with this one because it was so a book for me! It gripped me, was the emotional kind of jolt I needed and just reminded me why I love reading books!

  22. YESSSS!!!!! I loved Sawyer too! I disliked him at first but by the end of the book I was rooting for him and Reena. I thought the story was real and much more than the cliche pregnancy story, as you said! And I totally agree about the end of chapter cliffhangers. I could not stop reading this πŸ™‚ Awesome review/book talk Jamie πŸ™‚

  23. Darith L. says:

    I saw this book on BookOutlet, but I think it’s all gone now. πŸ™ But I’ll have to read one day because it does sound like a good read from this review. πŸ˜€ I’ve never read a book about teen pregnancy, but this seems like it will be a great read.

  24. Thanks for this! I’ve been going through a crazy slump too and I don’t think I’ve touched my blog in over two months but I’m still trying to read a bit. πŸ™‚

  25. I’m pretty happy that you enjoyed HOW TO LOVE! I really liked it when I read it last year. Once I opened it up and started reading, I just did not stop until the end, so I totally agree about it being addictive and utterly compelling! Glad you’ve found a book that broke away from the rest! πŸ™‚

  26. I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a time, but, like you, I’ve also been going through this reading slump. Yeah, I read, but it is not FUN, if you know what I mean. It’s like I can’t get into the story and this is quite disappointing because when I think about it, I’m quite sure that I would’ve liked the book if I had read it without going through this reading slump. But having read your fabulous review, I will pick it up and see where it takes me haha!

  27. I read this book also and I agree with everything you have said about it. I really did like Sawyer and the chemistry between him and Reena. I was enthralled by this book I always wanted to be reading it. This was a good my sister and I picked up because we thought the cover was beautiful and I’m glad the book did not disappoint.

  28. I just had to go and read your book talk about this book! I just finished this book last night and I loved it! I think I loved that it was a complicated relationship and that Reena had so many struggles to go through, yet it wasn’t complicated to read. And I personally don’t think that teen pregnancy is shown a lot in YA and it’s a HUGE thing that happens to a lot of teens nowadays. I think there should be more books about teen pregnancy. Half of my friends in high school had kids by the time we graduated. I think that if more of them read books that dealt with teenagers who went through it, they may have taken the time to be more smart of their decisions (like using birth control). I think this is a definite topic that needs to be shown more throughout realistic contemporary YA.

    Great book talk! I’m glad you liked it as much as I did! πŸ™‚

  29. LOVE this book!

  30. TEST


  1. […] very high, wonderful moment for the character and then it is followed by a low low. (OMG I started How To Love after the tour and THAT SCENE. […]

  2. […] mentioned last week that How To Love by Katie Cotugno got me out of a strange slump I was in but there was one more book that helped? YEP The Sea of […]

  3. […] Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson(review to come) 2. How To Love by Katie Cotugno 3. If I Lie by Corrine […]