Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Jill MacSweeny 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.

I’ve always been a fan of Sara Zarr, for years she’s been one of my auto-buys when I would walk into the bookstore. Despite my love of Zarr I was a bit scared about this one! Pregnant teenagers are this staple in media right now that I don’t want to acknowledge, you know…maybe if I ignore them the newfound public nature of it all will just go away. Anyhow, with it being Zarr I had to get it, once I got it I pretty much stared at it on my shelf. I wasn’t very smart in doing that. How to Save a Life is brilliant! I will say, it’s pretty predictable, but it has so much heart with just a bit of mystery.

How to Save a Life is told in alternating POVs between the girls. Jill’s father is killed and now her mom is adopting a baby, much to her horror. Mandy’s lived a rough life and just wants what’s best for the baby. I have to say I wasn’t very fond of either girl – and that works here. I got where each was coming from, but was definitely not a fan of either. Mandy annoyed me, she also felt a bit unrealistic. I felt that if she really went through everything she went through…surely she would have a been a bit less naive. Jill, on the otherhand, I liked at first, but as time went on I grew more and more irritated with her. Despite not always loving the characters, I felt for them – their situations, for lack of a better word, suck.

Like I already said the story line is a bit typical and expected, but at the same time it is fascinating. I love seeing the various reactions to situations, after all why else do we read? Points are realistic and other points not so much – I feel Zarr nailed it with the reactions to Mac’s death, but at the same time what person would adopt a baby in no real “official” manner? That part had red flags going up. All in all, How to Save a Life took me on a very enjoyable, emotional ride.

I received my copy of How to Save a Life in exchange for my honest opinion.

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