Saturday, September 01, 2012

REVIEW: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Title: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Pages: 411
Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: 1st September, 2012
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Publisher (for review)

Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

 --Goodreads summary

The concept of HOW TO SAVE A LIFE sounds really crazy: Jill father's recently died, and Jill projects Tough Girl, while her mother, Robin, decides she's going to adopt a baby. From Mandy, a teenage girl who contacted her on the internet. Yeah. Shady? Totes. That's what made me want to read this, because it seemed like there was lot more to the story than the summary was letting on to. 

The story is narrated by both Jilly and Mandy, and I was startled by how distinct both of their voices were. I think Zarr did a really fantastic job on creating such realistic characters in the two of them. The relationships between characters, too. Jill and Dylan's relationship, in particular. It didn't seem like something fictional that you'd just read about, but something that actually happened in Real Life because of the layers to it. I really liked how he reacted to Mandy, wanting to understand her, and still be there for Jill, even though her feelings were all over the place and she acted like a crazy brat a lot of the time. 

I was fascinated by Mandy. The naiveness to her that was highlighted in the parts where Alex, a man she met on the train to visit Robin, was concerned. She seemed so clueless, but aware at the same time and it made me want to know more, but keep my distance.

So much sadness and angst! Love, too. Though I'm glad that the love interests in the book didn't take over. It was more about Jilly and Mandy, learning to trust and copy and just be, their love for their respective families. 

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE was my first Zarr read, but not my favourite (I've read SWEETHEARTS since I finished this). I did think it lacked that extra-specialness that I found in SWEETHEARTS, but it's still a very good book, exploring themes of grief, changes and family relationships with the help of a cast of characters who, throughout the novel, develop with the utmost grace and softness.

“He felt it too, the air between us, the invisible lines that something or someone had drawn to connect us. That's the way I remember it.” 



  1. I loved Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl but not Sweethearts so much so I'm really curious to see what I'll think of this one. Great review!

  2. I've only read one book by her, Story of a Girl. It was a long time ago, too. But I do want to re-read it because I remember really liking it. And then I need to catch up on her books! This one definitely sounds different, but good. Thanks for sharing! Great review, definitely makes me want to read it more!


Show your love for this post. G'waaaaaaaan you know you want to.

Next Post Previous Post Home