Reviewed by Kay Brooks
When Sawyer LeGrande walks back in to Reena’s life, after leaving her to cope with being sixteen and pregnant without any support, she is bitter to say the least. Reena feels like she has lost a lot because of Sawyer, including her best childhood friend, Allie, respect from her strict Catholic father, her ambitions and her dreams of ever leaving town. Though she is convinced that she made the right decision to keep her baby, Reena had plans for her future. She was literally going places, with the choice to graduate early and start working towards becoming a travel writer. Now, Sawyer is back and determined to make amends but Reena has managed to scrape a life together without him and is determined not to give him opportunity to hurt her again.
How to Love is written alternating between two time periods in Reena’s life, before she got involved with Sawyer and when he has returned after a year of being unaccounted for. The chapters are numbered and are all titled before or after. The two stories run parallel, showing similarities and differences between Reena’s life then and now that she has her baby, Hannah. This is an interesting and effective way to present the plot, but it did make me feel dizzy at times. I would find myself having to check the title again to remind myself which era I was reading about.
Reena is a painfully honest character that I just wanted to protect from the inevitable fate of being left impregnated and alone in an area full of people eager to pass judgement. Her love and consideration for others in her life seems to affect every area of her life apart from when Sawyer is involved; for him she seems to have a blind adoration. It frustrated me that she discovered his flaws of drug-taking, promiscuity and lying, became angered by them and then decided to overlook them because she couldn’t resist him. Despite him causing so much pain and confusion with his selfish, reckless actions, when he returns he is much changed. I found myself warming to him at the same rate that Reena did, fully understanding why she needed to keep pushing him away until he proved himself fit to be involved in their daughter’s life. She is naïve, but possibly the most mature and responsible out of the characters, dealing with the consequences of her relationship with Sawyer as best she can.
There are times in the novel when you’ll find yourself rooting for Sawyer and Reena and also times when you’ll hope that he just leaves her to get on with rebuilding her life. This is an honest and, at times, painful account of a young girl falling in love.
A refreshing alternative to the traditional pattern of boy meets girl.
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