Monday, November 18, 2013

book review: How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Before: 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.

After: 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.

__WARNING: Spoilers below__


All I can say after finishing this book is wow. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, other than that everyone else who'd read it seemed to really love it, and now that I've finished it, I can see why. The book is told totally from Reena's (short for Serena) perspective, but it alternates from "Before," when she was in high school, before Sawyer leaves, and "After," which is after Sawyer returns. 

As first person viewpoints go, Reena is a delight to read. Witty, sarcastic, insecure, and guarded, she reminds me a little of how I used to be at sixteen. The "Before," Reena has been best friends with Allie forever, and you get such a peek into how their relationship works that it feels like you're losing your own best friend as they drift apart. And of course, at the middle of it all is a boy - Sawyer. Allie is dating him, even though Reena has been in love with him for a really long time (not that she'd admit it). 

Allie  dies rather suddenly, and it feels like Sawyer and Reena are kind of thrown together in the aftermath of Allie's passing. As a mother of three girls, I wanted to strangle Sawyer for treating Allie the way he did throughout their "Before" relationship, and I wanted to smack some sense into Allie. She's a very smart girl who makes all A's and even makes it into Northwestern, but her decisions prove that even smart girls can continually screw up and make bad decisions. 

When the "after" started, I wanted to kick Reena. It was totally predictable that she was going to break things off with her boyfriend Aaron, but I still hated her a little bit when the moment happened. Sawyer left her alone for years with no word and not a care in the world as to what had happened to her, and while I know he was struggling with his own drug issues and his demons, I thought that she let him off the hook way too easily. A little bit of (well-deserved) snark aimed in his direction was just not enough.

Of course there were tons of things I didn't like - Sawyer was the main thing. I didn't like him at all, even in the "After" when he was trying to repair things with Reena and become a father to Hannah. Apparently I am as unforgiving as everyone in the story thought Reena should have been. I didn't like that a smart girl like Reena, who could clearly see what was happening with her boyfriend, went against the family she loved and her better judgement, skipped school, etc. and basically screwed up her whole future just to be with some boy that she fancied herself in love with (because we're never told why she loved Sawyer for so long, other than that he was physically attractive. It couldn't be because of his sparkling, effervescent personality). I did like that she seemed to be a good mother when she was with Hannah, but at the same time, she felt really disconnected from her, too. It almost felt like she was more of an aunt, until we read her thoughts while she's pregnant. It's not until then that you feel the love she really has for her baby.

The things I did like: Reena's tough "keep-it-all-inside" personality, a stepmother who isn't a "stepmonster," and Shelby. Most of all, I liked Shelby. There wasn't enough of her in this book, and she's the reason for every laugh I actually had out loud. Every girl should have a friend like Shelby - fiercely loyal and someone who loves you unconditionally.

Overall, I kind of adored this book. It was well written and an easy read, even though I found myself having to stop a few times to wipe the tears away (what can I say? I'm a sap). I would recommend this book to anyone who likes teen romances with a healthy dollop of angst thrown in - and anyone who enjoys the works of Sarah Dessen and Colleen Hoover. This was a great debut from Ms. Cotugno, and it's enough that I know I will definitely pick up her next novel as well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Musings and revelations

I guess it never really hit me before that the reason I take so many pictures of my children is that I don't have many of myself growing up (they exist, I just don't have them), and I can't really remember much of my childhood, so this is my way of remembering it for my children.

Seriously, huge chunks of my memory are just... not there. There's got to be a reason... not sure what it might be.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Double standards suck.

You know what I love?

People who get mad or upset with me over something, treat me like total crap for a few days while they stew about it, and then confront me in the most passive-aggressive way possible. Then they go back to treating me like everything's okay because they got to say whatever the hell they wanted to say to me... meanwhile, if I ever said a negative thing to them, they'd flip their lid.