Before: Serena seems like a girl whose got it together. She has a good family, a best friend, and she’s smart with plans to graduate high school early and go to Northwestern. She also has a crush on her next door neighbor/ son of family friends Sawyer LaGrande though she’s taken pains not to let him know it until one night when he ditches his girlfriend (who happens to be her best friend) and shows up at the place they work.
After: Sawyer has returned after a near two-year absence right back into the new life Serena’s built with their daughter Hannah. She’s taking college courses, she has family help, another best friend and a good guy in her life.
How to love by Katie Cotugno jumps back and forth between the before and the after. For me it was an easy read mostly because I was hoping at some point I would understand why this is supposed to be a love story.
Me: Why do these two love each other? Am I getting old? Is this supposed to be romantic? Neither in the before or after did I think these two had a healthy relationship. Sawyer’s troubled and not in the way I usually go for (like broody vampires in Buffy or guys with family issues and bad fathers looking at you Jamie Lannister.) He’s obnoxious, he drinks, he using and he drags her to places she doesn’t like and then ignores her. It was actually painful for me to read the before parts. There was one cringe worthy part where he talks her out of going to school and her meetings, they go back to his place have sex and then he gets high with his roommates while she sits and wishes she was someplace else.
In the after sections I wound up growing to hate Serena too because at this point she really should know better. For me the worse part was when she exploded on her family particularly her father (who had been cold but we never see him be anything else to her) that they were all mean to her and she didn’t even get a baby shower. So I not only have to watch her torpedo her life again but she mostly comes off as a spoiled little brat who only cares about two people. Herself and Sawyer.
I think this is one of those books people will either love or hate but I didn’t connect to any of the characters. Even secondary (especially her poor friends) they don’t really have any personalities of note. And I didn’t like Sawyer or Serena which made my issues with the “romance” even starker. May it be well-written or even realistic? Probably. But it bothered me because I couldn’t think of a single reason including the kid that these two characters should be together. So it wasn’t star-crossed love. Personally, I would have called this one how not to love.