I read How to Love by Katie Cotugno when it first came out. Not only did her writing suck me in, but the characters were so real and raw I couldn't help but relate and feel what they felt. This book is all the good things: heartbreaking, tragic, uplifting, romantic. You get a little bit of everything, but I promise it will not be like a young adult romance you've before. This novel is for the older young adults and adults who want something a little different, with an authentic portrayal of real life. This is a coming of age novel just as much as it is a romance novel. I loved this book.
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?
Katie Cotugno went to Catholic school for thirteen years which makes her, as an adult, both extremely superstitious and prone to crushes on boys wearing blazers. She routinely finds herself talking about the romantic endeavors of characters on TV shows as if they actually exist in the world.
Katie is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in The Broadkill Review, The Apalachee Review, and Argestes, as well as on Nerve.com. Her first novel, HOW TO LOVE, is due out from Balzer + Bray on October 1st, 2013.
The great loves of Katie's life include child's pose, her little sister, and mozzarella and honey sandwiches. She lives in Boston (and in sin) with her boyfriend, Tom.
Describe How to Love in three words or one sentence.
Big, messy romance.
How is How to Love different from other young adult romances/coming-of-age stories currently on the market?
One of the best things I've heard from readers is that the characters in How to Love feel very real to them, and that includes the ugly parts. Reena and Sawyer are far from perfect--both of them are downright obnoxious at times--but I'd always rather write honest characters than ones who are reliably swoony. (Not that I don't also like a little swoon.)
When I think of your writing style, I think "real" and "raw" and "beautiful". How would you describe it?
Oh my goodness, thank you so much! My favorite writers are Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Hoffman--both of them can do things on the sentence level that just blow me away. I think I'm always trying to push myself to be more unflinching--not to shy away from the grittier, yuckier stuff while still being true to the fact that fundamentally the stories I want to write are love stories.
What's the most important part of your stories to get right and why? (i.e. The characters, the love scenes, the climax, etc.)
I think it has to start with the characters--it takes me a long time to get a real sense of who they are/what they want/what they're scared of, but if something is off in that department then the whole thing starts to smell a little funny.
What other books/TV shows/movies would appeal to fans of How to Love?
Oh oh, that's a good question! I can tell you which books/TV Shows/Movies are appealing to ME right now--I'm LOVING The Fosters, and I think it's pretty similar in tone to How to Love. My favorite movies of all time are Almost Famous and You've Got Mail--they both have a quality of palpable yearning about them that really resonates with me. As for books, I'm about to start Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I've heard such glowing things about it--I'm really excited.
Thanks so much Katie Cotugno for taking the time to answer our questions!
The (YA) Bookcase Team
The (YA) Bookcase Team