Tuesday, August 21, 2012

REVIEW: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

I'm such a huge fan of Sara Zarr's.  I've loved the quiet intensity and the emotion that has gone into every one of her books that I've read so far. And How To Save A Life was just as moving and incredible.  I really loved the story and its characters.

How to Save a Life is the story of two very different girls.  First there's Jill, an angry and sad teenage girl who is struggling due to the loss of her father.  Since his death, Jill has pushed away all of her friends and her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Dylan.  She's lost that ability to be nice and that makes her sad.  But still, Jill can't help but feeling like her mother is making a HUGE mistake when her mom decides that the thing to do is to adopt a baby over the Internet on her own. 

With that, we have the entrance of Mandy.  She figures the best thing she can do for her unborn child is to give her up to a loving family and bonus, going to stay with Jill and her mom until the baby is born solves her problem of living in her own toxic home environment.

I love how both Jill and Mandy changed for me so much over the course of this novel.  At first, I didn't quite like Mandy.  She's a bit brash and she makes other people uncomfortable.  Her mother's silly rules had turned Mandy into somebody obsessed with image and needing the attention of men.  But once we find out more about Mandy, it kind of broke my heart into teeny tiny little pieces reading the things that she has gone through in her young life. Sooner than I'd realised, my opinion of Mandy completely altered and I just wanted to give her a hug.  I love that she's the type of person who loves pancake houses and cheesy Mexican themed restaurants.  I love that she's the type of person who steals a man's address off his luggage after a brief conversation on a train and that she's still able to believe in love.

And as for Jill, I've always kind of liked moody and angry girls, but even Jill tested the very limits of my patience. She's so bitter and angry and it takes her a long time to see that she isn't the only person grieving for the loss of Jill's father and that Jill has always had things that Mandy has never known like unconditional love and support.  It seemed as though it took Jill's relationships with old flame Dylan and her new friendship with Ravi for her to finally see that the person she is becoming isn't so great. And that while she might not be able to turn back into the self she was before her dad died, she can go forward into being someone different, someone nicer and more generous with herself.

I really loved this book.  I loved that it deals with some heart-wrenching stuff in a believeable way.  I love that it's a book about friendship and family and love but written in a beautiful way that never goes over the top.  The characters are all real and flawed and wonderful.  I couldn't bear to be parted with this book and I highly recommend that you read it!


  1. I felt the same way about the characters. At the beginning Mandy annoyed me so much, but then Jill annoyed me, and then I liked them all. Awesome book. Except every time I think about it I hear the song by The Fray in my head...

    1. Yeah, that's happened quite a few times for me as well, with the chorus just sneaking into my brain!

  2. Wonderful review, it's great to see that you enjoyed this! I have just requested an ARC and can't wait for it to arrive. Thank you for sharing, Michelle! :)

    Steph @ SteppingOutOfThePage.co.uk


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