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How to Love - Katie Cotugno An ARC was given in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.

When I give 3 stars, it usually just means "I liked it" but it wasn't that great that it could garner 4-5 stars (and oftentimes, these are the ones that are hardest to write). Or it would mean it has a lot of good, but also a lot of bad, and it balances. This one's rating... is a bit more special than that.

In How To Love, we're introduced to two individuals who both have their own demons to face, within themselves and with the people that surround them. They've gone through a lot - the girl got pregnant, the boy left without knowing, three years later, he returns and it's chaos all over again. If you know me, I kind of love drama like this because it guarantees a lot of values in friendship, love, and family, and character development many of us could learn from and apply in real life.

This book is actually very successful in that aspect. You see, How To Love is quite a powerful character-driven story. If you like strong and genuine narrative that touches on raw and deep emotions, this is your book. Katie Cotugno is a spectacular writer as she was able to express the heroine's feelings, conflicts, and frustration well. You get angry when she's angry, angry when she's being stupid, angry when she's being too angsty, and emotional when she's emotional. I tell you, there were many intense moments in this book, scenes that made me hold my breath due to the suspense and the overflowing feelings bottled up. They were written astonishingly that they made me cry, too. This debut author is that good.

However...

Reena, the main character, infuriated me. To give credit, she was meant to be written as too angsty, whiny, and immature in certain aspects (because otherwise, where would that leave character development?), but I couldn't help but sigh in exasperation every time she overdid it. She'd be sarcastic for no reason, shitty to other people for no reason, complain people were acting shitty to her when she was the one being shitty in the first place, so on and so forth, that it drove me nearly mad. Given, it does fit in the story... her personality, flawed as it was, contributed much to the plot. So, you could say it's a "it's not you, it's me" situation. In the end, while she was endearing and strong in her own right, I only felt exhausted as I tried to catch up to whatever she said or did that I thought was questionable. :/ I definitely think she came off too strong for my tastes. In the end, while this was, basically, a five-star read, my negative experience with the main character was too hard to ignore and ultimately pushed me to drop it down to three stars.

But don't let this get to you! How To Love is still a spectacular book. It's a tale of facing your fears, overcoming them, and making amends with yourself and with the people around you. The heroine may not have worked for me, but she may work well for you. I recommend this book to those who'd want a well-done character-driven book that includes the elements of friendship, family, and ultimately, love.