How to Love is the perfect story for anyone who’s ever fallen in love. Pretty broad statement, right? See, this story doesn’t just deal with one type of love. It tackles first love, falling in love at the wrong time, falling out of love, loving the wrong person, loving the right person, loving someone when they’re with someone else… I think everyone can relate to at least one of those!
How to Love is the story of two teenagers, Sawyer and Reena, who fall in love twice. The author, Katie Cotugno, weaves together past and present in alternating chapters to show these two love stories in a brilliant way. You can’t help but root for Sawyer and Reena in both stages of their lives, but at the same time you know that in order to fall in love twice, they have to fall out of love too… It is this mixture of heartbreak and hope that really pulls you into Cotugno’s story.
Reena is one of the best teen heroines I’ve met this year. She is smart and funny and strong, yet also has her insecure moments that we can all relate to. She’s also a teen mom, but this challenge doesn’t make her jaded or show that she is irresponsible or careless. Instead, Cotugno presents a girl who has embraced her role as a mother, and is doing the best she can. In this way, Reena is a great role model for other teenagers who find themselves in similar situations.
Cotugno also does a great job with the parents in this story. I’ll tell you right now, you will fall in love with Reena’s stepmother. Both Reena and Sawyer’s parents are so much more than background figures and show all different perspectives on Reena’s situation, and also show that parents, like teenagers, are capable of making mistakes.
How to Love is an emotional roller coaster and I’m warning you right now, it will remind you of every past relationship, and every wrong person you’ve ever loved… but it’s totally worth the ride. Who we love and how we love makes us who we are, and Cotugno shows this beautifully in her debut novel.
Q&A with How to Love author Katie Cotugno
We’re both charmed and frustrated with Sawyer at the same time-we can’t help it. Was it difficult to get into the mindset of that type of character?
For me, badly-behaved characters are always the most fun to write, and Sawyer definitely falls into that category. His heart’s in the right place–at least, I think it is–but he’s got a lot of growing up to do, especially in the Before chapters. He makes one dumb decision after another, pretty much, but for me that’s way more entertaining than a character who’s already got it all figured out.
Reena is admirably strong, thoughtful, and capable for someone so young. Where did you draw her strength from?
Reena’s a tough cookie for sure–too tough sometimes, I think. I’m grateful to have a ton of amazing women in my life to inspire me, though, and who’ve taught me that sometimes things are crummy but you just have to keep going. That’s what Reena’s real strength is, I think–she just keeps going no matter what.
What has been your favorite part about your publishing journey so far?
Oh my gosh, I’ve gotten to meet–and work with–so many amazing people over the last couple of years; it’s been incredible. I’ve learned so much, I’ve made thirteen funny, fierce, and talented new girlfriends thanks to the Fourteenery, and I get to wake up every day and make up stories in my head. I feel so insanely lucky.
If you could go back in time and give your 15 year old self some advice on falling in love, what would it be?
Hey girl: relax.
Have you traveled anywhere internationally? Or do you have a list of places you hope to visit?
I’ve traveled a bit internationally, though not nearly as much as I’d like to. I was in London and Dublin a couple of years ago, and back in high school I went to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji (with forty other girls; it was a YA novel in itself). Plus: Canada and Mexico! I’d love to make it to Paris and Rome sometime soon, and I’m dying to see Santorini.
Follow me on twitter @shanparsons.