Reena’s life is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Sawyer, disappears. No one knows where he has gone and Reena is left heartbroken and pregnant. Two years later Sawyer returns to town and Reena struggles to accept that he wants to be part of her and her daughter’s lives.
How to Love is told in alternating chapters which chronicle what Reena’s life was like leading up to Sawyer’s disappearance and what her life is like when he comes home. Her dreams of being a travel writer and leaving for college are detailed so clearly that the reader aches for what she has lost in that regard more than the absence of Sawyer. Her experience as a mother is displayed showing the difficulties of trying to attend college while looking after her daughter who is now the person she loves most.
Teenage pregnancy is a recurring theme in young adult literature and it is a brave author who takes it on hoping to add something new. This original novel is more about Reena and her ability to cope with the situations that she finds herself in before and after she finds that she is pregnant, than about the love for Sawyer that is claimed to be the novel’s main theme. Sawyer remains shadowy throughout the novel and his lack of character development is the biggest flaw in an otherwise excellent novel. While Reena maintains that she knows him intimately, she never shares enough of what she experiences for the reader to gain more than a superficial understanding of his personality. For that reason he becomes incidental to the reader’s hopes for Reena at the close of the novel as her plans for the future as a whole become much more important than whether those plans include him.