Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How to Love

Author: Katie Cotugno
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Released: 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Library
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 life 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 let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
My main question at the beginning of the book wasn't "can Reena let herself love Sawyer," but why the heck should she? Why would she? As the stories unfold, the alternating chapters of Before and After slowly revealing what happened and how Reena felt and feels about it, I found myself beginning to resent Sawyer. I could understand why Reena was enchanted by him when she simply had a crush on him - though there didn't seem to be anything simple about it - but once they were together and Sawyer was such an ass on a constant basis, even with the constant charm, as contradictory as that sounds, I just kept wondering why Reena stayed with him once she realized what he's really like. And even more, now that Sawyer is back, how could she let herself fall for him again?

But then things change. Aside from finding out what really happened in the Before, we get to see how Sawyer is a really great guy. He's sweet and charming, he's sensitive and caring. Of course, it's all mixed up in Reena's swings from loving him fiercely and beyond all help to hating him furiously and pushing him as far away as she can. She honestly doesn't know what to make of him. This story is Reena's, told in her voice, but I loved that we get to see Sawyer's thoughts (indirectly, and we need to sift through Reena's interpretation in order to figure out what Sawyer really thinks) and the way he is slowly revealed as a more complex person than the monster/angel Reena has set him up to be.

The alternating chapters is brilliantly done. It's most brilliant at the end, when a few pages out I could feel what was coming, and sat with my hand over my mouth, bouncing in my seat, as I waited for it to happen. And it totally satisfies when it does happen. Sigh... Romance, tentative and sweetly risky. With an uber-sweet payoff.

A careful and sensitive look at childhood crushes, betrayal, family, disappointment, grief, and true love. Love love love this book, to pieces and back again. (Is that even a thing? Don't know, but I just made it a thing.)

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