How To Love isn't the type of book I normally would read, in fact I don't usually read contemporary/realistic fiction. If I hadn't received How To Love for review, I most likely would have skipped out on this one. I'm really glad that I didn't pass over this one because it definitely left an emotional impact on me and has opened my mind in so many ways. How To Love has definitely broadened my reading tastes and that's an impressive feat in my mind.
Prior to starting this book, I was worried that How To Love would be too angsty and read like a novelization of MTV's Teen Mom. This novel is nothing like the aforementioned TV show and there are few easily recognizable similarities between the two. How To Love manages to be thought-provoking, cute and fluffy, and extremely poignant at the same time.
Katie Cotugno is definitely a master at playing readers' emotions and it's easy to see how her poetic roots influenced How To Love. Each sentence and word seems to have been deliberately chosen to evoke certain emotions from the reader. To say that How To Love is poetic feels like an understatement, How To Love manages to be lyrical and elegant in it's own right. This may be Cotugno's debut novel, but How To Love has all the signature qualities of a talented, experienced writer.
How To Love takes so many social issues and manages to make them easily accessible. Themes regarding family, first love, relationships, and teen pregnancy are conveyed to the reader in a perfect manner. How To Love is important on so many levels and it will definitely be a novel that so many will be relate to.
I loved the character development of Reena, our protagonist whose life veers off course when she becomes pregnant. Many reviewers have commented on her behaviour and personality in a less than favorable manner, but I think many reviewers were a bit harsh on her. Reena was abandoned by her boyfriend and she is left to deal with her child and her religious family ON HER OWN. It was hard for my mind to fully understand how hard it must have been for Reena to be in such a less than ideal situation. I definitely felt for her, but I knew that I could never fully comprehend her struggles because I have led a life that's far different.
The romance in How To Love was the major driving force of the novel and it's definitely everything I expected and more. Seeing Sawyer and Reena fall in love again and again really turned me into a pile of mush. It was so adorable and I felt like swooning throughout the entire novel. I really didn't expect to the romance as much as I did.
The major downfalls for me personally were the pacing and the angst. I really loved the storyline and writing, but I felt that this book ran a bit too long at nearly 400 pages. The pacing went a slowish pace towards the middle and it seemed to drag for a bit. The pacing and the angsty moments of How To Love really went hand-in-hand for me because that's where my enjoyment of this book went a bit downhill. As soon as the novel started to get more angsty, my interested started to wane and the pacing started to bother me. Don't get me wrong, How To Love isn't overly angsty, but the minimal angsty moments that the novel comprised of really bothered me.
Despite a few personal faults, I really felt emotionally captivated by Reena and Sawyer's story. This isn't my usual cuppa tea, but it managed to be one of my favorite contemporary novels that I read this year. How To Love definitely has alot going for it and I wish Cotugno all the best luck with her debut novel! I am definitely looking forward to Cotugno's sophomore novel in hopes that it will be as poignant as How To Love!