How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life   by, Sara Zarr  How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Published by Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette

Jill MacSweeny is doing everything she can to cope with the fact that her dad died. Unfortunately, she’s not coping well, as she’s isolated herself from her boyfriend, her friends, even her mother – the only person who can truly understand what Jill is going through. When her mom decides to adopt a baby, Jill can’t believe that her mom would want to replace her dad with a baby, like that’s even possible. Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unloved – her mother never wanted her and doesn’t shy away from letting Mandy know what a burden she has been her whole life. When she becomes pregnant, she knows she needs to provide a better life for her baby than the one she has. When Jill and Mandy are thrown together, their worlds turn upside-down and they are each forced to reexamine everything they thought was true about themselves and their lives.

Remember how I said before that there are some YA authors who are Saying Things? Well, Sara Zarr is another one of those authors. How to Save a Life is about so much – grief, choice, poverty, borderline child abuse, growing up – but it’s also an incredibly touching, moving novel that you will be unable to forget.

I LOVED these characters. Jill is in such a sad and difficult place after losing her father, her most favorite person in the whole world, but at the same time she is just so feisty and raw and real. She is so sure of herself, she knows herself so well, in a way that very few teens, very few people really, actually are. And Mandy is just the complete opposite. Her view of herself has been shaped entirely by what her mother has taught her, so when she meets Jill and her mother and sees a different way of living and of being in the world, she doesn’t know what it all means. She is so unsure of herself and has zero confidence, she can’t believe that people will be able to love her baby, much less Mandy herself. It’s incredibly sad to watch but ends up being an amazing personal journey by the end of it – for both Jill and Mandy.

How to Save a Life made me cry. In public, no less. Had I not been in public, on a plane, I would have sobbed, but as it was I attempted to silence my tears. There are so many things I want to tell you about this novel, but I don’t want to ruin its beauty or its brilliance by sharing everything… so just read it. I loved this book in a major way and I would love to know what you think when you read it too.

10 thoughts on “How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr”

  1. Oh, this book does sound outstanding, and leaves me with so many questions that I need answered! I loved how you explored the fragility of both girls in your review, and how you got deep into the heart of what makes this book work. I need to read this one, pronto! Fantastic review today, Heather!

  2. Wow, this book sounds wonderful. I read Once Was Lost last year and was impressed by it as well. Need to read this one now. Thanks for the review.

  3. Sounds absolutely wonderful to me…I have this one on my Kindle so I will make sure now that I read it at home!!! Loved your thoughts!

  4. I really wish they had YA books with these kinds of messages when I was a YA! This sounds really powerful. I need to keep it in mind!

  5. Sara Zarr! I don’t know why I haven’t read more of her books, apart from that I feel absurdly tall in the kids’ section of my library. :p I really liked the one book of hers I read, and I’m sure I’d like her others.

  6. How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr features to main characters, Mandy Madison and Jill MacSweeny. Mandy is a pregnant19 year old girl from Omaha, Nebraska who puts her baby girl up for adoption. A woman in Nebraska, Robin MacSweeny, who had lost her husband not even a year ago, has taken up Mandy’s offer. Mandy leaves her mother and her mothers boyfriend behind in Nebraska, and takes the train to Denver where the MacSweeny’s live. Jill, Robin’s seventeen year old daughter, is very suspicious about Mandy and the whole adoption process, for her mother has promised Mandy that there will be no papers or lawyers involved. Jill doesn’t trust or like Mandy because she is so different from the rest of them. But Jill learns to love her in the end. They practically become sisters! But they’ll have to get over some bumps in the road before any of that.

    -KOWALSKI the penguin

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