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How To Save A Life (Usborne Modern Classics)

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Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby. Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes. As their worlds change around them, Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby. Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes. As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn both how to hold on and how to let go, finding that nothing is as easy - or as difficult - as it seems. Heart-achingly beautiful, moving and funny, How to Save a Life has been named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2011 and an American Library Assocation 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. "A rich tapestry of love and survival that will resonate with even the most cynical readers." - Booklist


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Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby. Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes. As their worlds change around them, Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby. Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes. As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn both how to hold on and how to let go, finding that nothing is as easy - or as difficult - as it seems. Heart-achingly beautiful, moving and funny, How to Save a Life has been named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2011 and an American Library Assocation 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. "A rich tapestry of love and survival that will resonate with even the most cynical readers." - Booklist

30 review for How To Save A Life (Usborne Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristin (KC) - Traveling Sister

    *5 Stars* LOVED IT! I was searching for something different; something easy but substantial, and this turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. How to Save a Life is a gentle read with tons of depth and character growth. I’d call it a coming-of-age tale, but it’s honestly so much more. The plot involves fairly common topics in Young Adult: teen pregnancy and overcoming grief—but the expert execution made these issues feel almost *new* to fiction. This story doesn't have tons of angst, yet *5 Stars* LOVED IT! I was searching for something different; something easy but substantial, and this turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. How to Save a Life is a gentle read with tons of depth and character growth. I’d call it a coming-of-age tale, but it’s honestly so much more. The plot involves fairly common topics in Young Adult: teen pregnancy and overcoming grief—but the expert execution made these issues feel almost *new* to fiction. This story doesn't have tons of angst, yet I didn't want to put it down. It captivated me with its honesty and realistic dialogue and narrations. There are some sad aspects, but the story is ultimately sweet and uplifting. A little of the plot: When Amanda finds out she's pregnant, she decides she's going to put the baby up for adoption. She's practically a child herself, and doesn't have a stable home-life to offer her baby. She begins an online quest to find the perfect family, and soon her search brings her face-to-face with a grieving widow and mother who’s desperate to fill the void of the sudden death of her husband. The only problem is, her teenaged daughter, Jill, isn't on board with the adoption, and she’s quick to show Amanda just what she really thinks of her mother’s hasty decision. I truly loved seeing the journey of enemies-to-friends; it was such a natural, realistic transition. The characters were flawed and imperfect, and the alternating narration between Amanda and Jill offered an in-depth understanding of them both. There's also a love story incorporated that I simply adored! This isn't a spoiler, and I feel it’s worth a mention: There is a scene in the beginning of the story that was so profound and really set the tone — it’s the moment when this story “hooked” me. The parallel lines of footprints on the cover even seem to be acknowledging this moment: Amanda catches a cab to a train station and is left to wait outside in the snow, alone. She feels abandoned. The train station is deserted, and the driver didn't have the decency to stick around and see to it that the young, pregnant girl is okay. I love the way this stranger becomes a metaphor for how life will abandon us. She could freeze to death and no one would be there to care or stop her. It was such an honest, eye-opening moment of the book, handled with true beauty. And finally, this lovely story ends the exact way I wish for all books to end: with me wanting more. Yes, the story is finished and complete, but the author knew the perfect moment to call it quits and didn't cheapen the story with an unnecessary amount of details in the wrap-up. Such a fantastic read! Book Stats: ▪  Genre/Category: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction ▪  Steam Caliber: Clean ▪ Romance: Very sweet and tender/Young love ▪  Characters: Complex and broken ▪  Plot: Focuses in on family, friendship, and love. ▪ Writing: Exquisite. Simple but profound. ▪ POV: 1st Person: Alternates ▪  Cliffhanger: None/Standalone

  2. 4 out of 5

    L A i N E Y

    OH MY. I think I just discovered an Australian author equivalent to the Canadian Queen Courtney Summers. Or very very close to it. If you know me at all, you’d immediately recognize that that is a recommendation of the highest order. Grief is such a supremely personal experience and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr spelled that out for you brilliantly. I confess I was a bit apprehensive starting this since more than several reviews mention how unlikeable the characters were. But it was all for naug OH MY. I think I just discovered an Australian author equivalent to the Canadian Queen Courtney Summers. Or very very close to it. If you know me at all, you’d immediately recognize that that is a recommendation of the highest order. Grief is such a supremely personal experience and How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr spelled that out for you brilliantly. I confess I was a bit apprehensive starting this since more than several reviews mention how unlikeable the characters were. But it was all for naught. I didn’t necessarily liked them (especially Mandy) but I did sympathize with them a great deal and it really spoke volumes about Zarr’s writing ability to me. What generally put me off in characters are self-entitlement and the whininess which these characters were neither, I’m glad to say. I love how genuine their feelings and world views were and how they progressed throughout the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    karen

    i have no idea why i decided to read this book. it is not in my usual range of interests at all. i know i saw a number of positive reviews go past on this here website, but realistic YA is not usually my bag. i like my YA to take place in rubble-filled urban wastelands or in forests where threats take the form of monsters or other horrific desperations. i like my problems to be things i will never have to actually deal with. it soothes me. "run for your lives, kiddies!," i shout through a mouthf i have no idea why i decided to read this book. it is not in my usual range of interests at all. i know i saw a number of positive reviews go past on this here website, but realistic YA is not usually my bag. i like my YA to take place in rubble-filled urban wastelands or in forests where threats take the form of monsters or other horrific desperations. i like my problems to be things i will never have to actually deal with. it soothes me. "run for your lives, kiddies!," i shout through a mouthful of nutella and bananas. you should see the splatter... but this is nothing like that. and it was probably on the high of having looooved paper towns that i decided to give it a go. let's see what these "real-world problems" can do to entertain me. it wasn't looking good, to begin with. the two narrators are both incredibly unlikable. one is a pregnant teen who is trying to escape her unsuitable home life and lying her way into the lives of a family torn apart by the death of its patriarch, willing to adopt a baby without going through the typical channels of paperwork and putting a lot of trust in a vapid girl who has been raised to be pretty but not much else. the other narrator is the daughter of the family - angry at the world after her father's death, pushing everyone away from her and suspicious of this girl who is moving in with them and displaying some pretty questionable behavior. they are both dreadful. add to that a mother who is trying to save the word one gluten-free cookie at a time, and an emo boyfriend who is allowing himself to be doormatted while his girl works through her rage at the world. so why is this book good?? i don't really know, but it is. it is a mystery to me, my affection for it. i suppose it is because the strength of the story can override its own characters. it does a really good job of reminding the reader of the perils of those rocky teenage years. the confusion and the frustration and the not-knowing-why-we-are-acting-like-we-hate-our-parents-when-our-home-life-is-actually-pretty-good. there is a lot of regret in this book, which is really well-executed. and there are some tricky things that are dealt with really well. i'm glad i gave it a shot, because although i liked it less than paper towns, it is always a good thing for me to step out of my comfort zone, even if only temporarily. do you see how broad and catholic my tastes are becoming?? come to my blog!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    As seen on The Readventurer Frankly, I was taken aback by the synopsis of Sara Zarr's new novel when I first read it. Told from the perspectives of 2 teen girls - Mandy, who is pregnant and is considering to give up her baby for adoption, and Jill, the only daughter of a recently widowed woman who wants to take in Mandy's child - it felt just too cheaply 16 and Pregnant to me. Plus there are some themes in YA that I absolutely have no interest in reading about - teen pregnancy is right there, at As seen on The Readventurer Frankly, I was taken aback by the synopsis of Sara Zarr's new novel when I first read it. Told from the perspectives of 2 teen girls - Mandy, who is pregnant and is considering to give up her baby for adoption, and Jill, the only daughter of a recently widowed woman who wants to take in Mandy's child - it felt just too cheaply 16 and Pregnant to me. Plus there are some themes in YA that I absolutely have no interest in reading about - teen pregnancy is right there, at the top of that list. But I was proven once again that a good writer can crash my preconceived notions. In How to Save a Life Sara Zarr offers something very special. What Zarr is best as is character development. Both protagonists in this novel are fairly unlikable. Jill is mourning her father. Essentially, she is a mean bitch. Yes, she has an excuse - her dad's death - but she is still a very unpleasant person - cynical, rude and off-putting. And then there is Mandy. Mandy made me very uncomfortable at first. You know the type of people who throw themselves at you, needing attention, who will stick to you and will tell you everything about their lives and will consider you their best friend within a few minutes of knowing you? That is Mandy. I don't know how Zarr does it, but once again she made me appreciate her characters that I first thought very difficult and unpleasant. Maybe not love them, but understand them and revel in their growth and transformation. These two girls' journey to accept and get the best out of each other was truly magical. I believe How to Save a Life is Sara Zarr's best novel to date. It certainly made me cry harder than any other book of hers. One astute friend of mine pointed out the biggest flaw of this work to me - its utterly predictable outcome - and I absolutely agree with it, however the novel was so marvelously consuming that I didn't even realize that the ending was exactly the one I wished for. Is this a bad thing?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    My thoughts on How to Save a Life remind me a lot of the way I felt about Please Ignore Vera Dietz. In fact, there's one thing I can pretty much quote directly from the review I wrote, about how there are two subjects in young adult books that would normally make me run a mile: a) teen pregnancy, and b) coping with the death of a loved one Both of them are just so overdone, annoying and melodramatic that I find it quite amazing that this novel can march onto the literary scene with its two pers My thoughts on How to Save a Life remind me a lot of the way I felt about Please Ignore Vera Dietz. In fact, there's one thing I can pretty much quote directly from the review I wrote, about how there are two subjects in young adult books that would normally make me run a mile: a) teen pregnancy, and b) coping with the death of a loved one Both of them are just so overdone, annoying and melodramatic that I find it quite amazing that this novel can march onto the literary scene with its two perspectives, one by a girl who is pregnant, and the other by a girl who's trying to deal with the loss of her father, and be absolutely, wonderfully moving, heartbreaking and unforgettable. I can't say I'm shocked that it was good, the other reviews made me sure I would love this story, but I still find it surprising that this subject matter has been turned into something fresh and new. I was slightly apprehensive, I do admit, because the only other novel I have read by Sara Zarr is Story of a Girl and I wasn't that impressed. No, perhaps it's not that, but rather I felt like myself and the author were on completely different wavelengths regarding a lot of issues that I find important, and I was a little concerned that some of these things might resurface in How to Save a Life. I need not have worried. I felt that everything about this book was just a lot more polished than Story of a Girl, and it was wholly more satisfying for it. I loved the writing - beautiful but without being burdened by prose that is too flowery - and I thought every single character had something to offer the story, no one introduced was wasted. And though this was also a sad book, I was glad the ending was happier and had a greater sense of closure than Story of a Girl did.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Megs ♥

    Thank you to my good friend, Shellie, here on GR for sending me this book with a high recommendation. P.S. I love the cover of this book! Being my first book from Sara Zarr I came into this book with no expectations. I don't read a lot of teen dramas, but this book has lots of good reviews so I wanted to read it. Zarr's writing reminds me of Kristin Hannah for YA. I realize I seem to be in the minority here, but to me this book was simply okay. Jill is grieving her father that died. They were very Thank you to my good friend, Shellie, here on GR for sending me this book with a high recommendation. P.S. I love the cover of this book! Being my first book from Sara Zarr I came into this book with no expectations. I don't read a lot of teen dramas, but this book has lots of good reviews so I wanted to read it. Zarr's writing reminds me of Kristin Hannah for YA. I realize I seem to be in the minority here, but to me this book was simply okay. Jill is grieving her father that died. They were very close, and she thinks about him constantly. Her mother, Robin, is trying to adopt a baby from a teen named Mandy, and at first Jill is angry about this. Mandy has a horrible life at home with an abusive step father so she moves in with Robin and Jill for the last few months of her pregnancy. The story is told back and forth between Mandy and Jill's POV. The author did a really good job at showing how your perception of people can be completely wrong. For this reason I think Mandy was the best written character. When we are reading from Jill's point of view Mandy comes off as kind of dumb, asking a lot of awkward questions. When we are reading for Mandy's POV, however, we are privy to the fact that she is aware that she does this, and actually sounds a lot more intelligent than she would seem to anyone speaking to her. Jill comes off as really rude, but deep down she's not so bad. I liked Mandy and Jill despite their flaws. This story held special meaning for me since I was also pregnant around the same age as Mandy, and I felt the author did an okay job telling Mandy's POV. The ending of this book was completely predictable. I do have some praise for her ending and it is this (view spoiler)[ Almost every time a YA author starts a story and the main character has a boyfriend they are constantly falling into this cop out ending that really irritates me. The current guy starts out nice and you just know the author can't think of any other ending so what do they do? Turn the current guy into an ass and that simply wraps up the story leaving our main character free to date the newer guy. Some books that have done this were Lola and The Boy Next Door, and Even Mockingjay kind of did that. I'm glad that Zarr was more original and did not turn Dylan into a super douche, but she was still able to end their relationship. (hide spoiler)] I didn't find this story to be extremely powerful or intense, in fact there were many parts where my mind drifted in boredom, but overall it was a decent story with well written, relatable characters. I don't know what I'm missing here that everyone else adores so much of this book. I liked it, but everyone else seems to LOVE it. As far as Zarr's writing goes I think she's a fantastic writer, and I will check out more of her books.

  7. 5 out of 5

    mollusskka

    I don't remember how I ended up buying this book. And it's been almost a year sitting on my to-read shelf. So when I decided to finally read this book, I was so glad that it wasn't a let down at all. Jill's first line hooked me already and it went enjoyable all along. This book tells the story of two teenagers named Jill and Mandy. Jill is such a lucky girl because she comes from a great family with loving parents. But the death of her dad turn her world upside down. Meanwhile Mandy lives the opp I don't remember how I ended up buying this book. And it's been almost a year sitting on my to-read shelf. So when I decided to finally read this book, I was so glad that it wasn't a let down at all. Jill's first line hooked me already and it went enjoyable all along. This book tells the story of two teenagers named Jill and Mandy. Jill is such a lucky girl because she comes from a great family with loving parents. But the death of her dad turn her world upside down. Meanwhile Mandy lives the opposite of Jill's life plus the fact that she's pregnant makes her life a lot heavier. Robin, Jill's mother, is the one who makes Jill's life even harder (according to Jill) and gives a promise of a better future for Mandy and her baby since Robin decides to sign up for an open adoption. So there they are, three different personalities, under the same roof, living their daily life and thinking about what to do next after the baby's born. It's not easy, of course, but it eventually teaches them about what trust is and how to deal with their problems. Mandy has my deepest sympathy for what she's been through. I felt bad and sad every time I read her part. But I also get how Jill's feeling about Robin's decision. I could imagine how it felt when your own mother "seems" to love and get along very easily with other girl of the same age than with you. All the characters in this books are great and the writing style really add up to my satisfaction. It's something like Rainbow Rowell's mixed with Jodi Picoult's. I like Jill's boyishness, carefulness and suspiciousness. She's a perfect mate for her impulsive mother. I like Mandy's friendliness though it sometimes annoying and stupid. How could she be so naive sending letters to a man she met on a train just once? Just like her mother says: You make people uncomfortable. The romance here is Jill's territory. I mean, it's mostly about Jill's love life because Mandy only has a short story in this part and it's a tragic one. There's a tendency to a love triangle but the author just leaves it there in a complicated situation between Jill, Dylan and Ravi until the story ends. So it's up to the reader, I guess. But I'll understand if Jill decides to choose the new one because sometimes you just need someone new who gets you even more. Over all, it's a great book and such a page turner. If I weren't so busy I may have had finished it so soon. Really like the note from the author and something like open adoption as well as adult adoption. It's awesome. Wondering if there's something like this in my country. And i hope there will be a movie adaptation for this book. Fingers crossed! My favorite lines from this book is: "Mom and I, different as we are, are twin planets orbiting the same universe of grief but never quite making contact. Maybe this baby is a good thing and I'm just not seeing it. Maybe it'll be a new little sun for us, or at least for Mom. Or maybe it will be a black hole that will suck us in and tear us to bits. Either way, we're at the point of no return. Hello, event horizon."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    4 1/2 stars Reading Sara Zarr reminds me of that old Hemingway quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Boy does she know how to do that. Only, she translates every emotion with such stark, raw purity that it feels like I am the one bleeding. Maybe not everyone has been a pregnant teenager with a dreadful home life or a hostile, sarcastic girl who’s just lost her closest support, but I think that it would be hard for anyone not to find something to r 4 1/2 stars Reading Sara Zarr reminds me of that old Hemingway quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Boy does she know how to do that. Only, she translates every emotion with such stark, raw purity that it feels like I am the one bleeding. Maybe not everyone has been a pregnant teenager with a dreadful home life or a hostile, sarcastic girl who’s just lost her closest support, but I think that it would be hard for anyone not to find something to relate to in these girls. Mandy and Jill are two girls who want more. Mandy is eight months pregnant and takes a desperate chance on Robin, a middle aged widow who agrees to adopt her child with no contracts, lawyers, or social workers. Jill is Robin’s daughter, still reeling from the loss of her father only a year ago, and highly suspicious of Mandy and her motivations. These girls couldn’t possibly have less in common, but they are thrown together, and they may end up impacting each other’s lives in unexpected ways. Each Sara Zarr novel that I have read features a young woman dealing with conflict in her life and learning to cope, and yet none of these girls feel at all like the same person. Each novel feels original. And that’s true here as well: Mandy and Jill have very distinct personalities and voices. I could relate to Mandy’s insecurity as a potential mother, to her confusion about who she is, to her firm conviction about who she’s not. I could also relate to Jill; to her desperate fear of love and intimacy, after experiencing real loss for the first time. I like the love interests, but I love that they don’t play a major role in this story. This is a story about Mandy and Jill finding peace and certainty within themselves, and learning to trust. The only part of this story that doesn’t feel quite real to me is the end. But, I think that most of you know by now that I have a hard time with happy endings. What seems incongruous to me, will probably only increase the popularity of this book. Who doesn’t love a happy ending? (view spoiler)[Me. Maybe it’s because I could relate so much to Mandy’s doubts that she would be a good mother. That’s not something that goes away as soon as your baby is born and placed into your arms. There’s no magical balm for that. I have had to earn what little confidence I have piece by piece, one bedtime, one meal, one scraped knee at a time. I guess I wanted to see some of that in Mandy – that everything wasn’t magically fixed. And I know that Christopher should be told about the baby, but it felt too much like Mandy seeking for some kind of outside completion, outside validation. She doesn’t need that. (hide spoiler)] Perfect Musical Pairing Mumford & Sons – Timshel I love this album for these books. This song is such a healing balm, which is something that I think both Mandy and Jill need. It has two distinct phrases, which remind me so much of Mandy and Jill. Jill: "Cold is the water It freezes your already cold mind Already cold, cold mind And death is at your doorstep And it will steal your innocence But it will not steal your substance" and Mandy: "And you are the mother The mother of your baby child The one to whom you gave life And you have your choices And these are what make man great His ladder to the stars" Also seen on The Readventurer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Reynje

    Some stories feel thinner than the paper they’re printed on. Without disrespect to the work that goes into crafting a novel, sometimes reading certain books can feel like nothing more than following words across paper. A perfunctory effort for a temporary experience - there’s nothing really holding me to the story. Then there are stories that make me forget I’m reading, that draw me in beyond the paper and ink and binding. Stories that I both absorb and am absorbed into - an experience that feel Some stories feel thinner than the paper they’re printed on. Without disrespect to the work that goes into crafting a novel, sometimes reading certain books can feel like nothing more than following words across paper. A perfunctory effort for a temporary experience - there’s nothing really holding me to the story. Then there are stories that make me forget I’m reading, that draw me in beyond the paper and ink and binding. Stories that I both absorb and am absorbed into - an experience that feels strangely symbiotic and completely organic. How To Save A Life felt like that for me. It’s the quietness of Sara Zarr’s writing that completely undoes me. There’s a quality of stillness about it that lends her stories a kind of gravity. The language is clear and uncluttered, yet sometimes devastating in its emotional honesty. Zarr writes about the kind of things that feel almost seismic to us internally, while making barely a ripple in the world at large. She builds stories around relatable sentiments and all too common events – lives fragmented by pain, grief, abuse, and held together with fragile threads of hope and redemption. There is something very sincere about the undemonstrative way Zarr crafts raw, poignant moments in her prose – and while you don’t always notice the impact at the time, it emerges like a bruise once the book is closed. The themes are universal, but the execution feels deeply personal and heartfelt. How To Save A Life weaves together the dual narration of Jill, grieving for her father, and Mandy, a pregnant teen seeking a better life for her unborn child. Their lives converge when Jill’s mother makes the decision to adopt a child – with life changing repercussions for all involved. Both voices are exceptionally well-realised, essential for such a character-driven story. And while there is some crossover of events between the perspectives, they remain distinct and true to each character. Jill and Mandy’s respective style and tone of narration are indicative of the type of people they are, often revealing more through implication than explicit “telling”. In this sense, both Jill and Mandy felt very real, and I cared about them and their situations. Even at Jill’s most thorny and closed off, her most deliberate slamming of figurative doors in the face of those who would reach out to her in her grief, I felt for her. Even at Mandy’s most conflicted and (seemingly) obtuse, my heart ached for her and I wanted her to find the love and life she deserved. The supporting characters, Robin, Dylan, Ravi, even Jill’s father Mac, also felt carefully crafted and had real presence in the story. I appreciated the way of that each of the characters were important in their own right, and not merely tokens or props for the plot. Despite their smaller roles, particularly in the case of Dylan and Ravi, they gave a certain richness to the texture of Jill and Mandy’s story, another layer of context to the bittersweet blend of pain and hope. The plot and pacing of the story are largely propelled by the conflicts of the various characters, both internally and with each other. Interestingly, for a book that’s not totally plot-driven, I didn’t want to put it down. The character’s motivations and interactions with each other were so compelling that I carried the book around with me, torn between wanting to inhale it and wanting to savour it. (And also out of fear that Zarr was going to shatter me at the end. I won’t say if that happened or not). I haven’t provided much of a synopsis of the plot – and while its obviously fundamental to the overall tone of the book – I feel that the true strength of How To Save A Life lies with the characters, and the sheer emotion they evoke while reading. I’m awed by Sara Zarr’s beautiful and subtle way with words, with the quietly powerful story she has written. This was a book I won’t forget.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*

    Reasons I chose to read this book. 1. I like the song. 2. I liked the cover. 3. Favorable reviews on GRs. 4. Free download from the library. But I would not have chosen to read the book solely on the synopsis of this book. Reading about pregnant teens is not my firs choice. So imagine my surprise at how much I loved this book. The story is told in dual perspectives. Jill MacSweeney was once an outgoing girl with lots of friends and a boyfriend, Dillon. She turns inward, and pushes her friends, Dillon Reasons I chose to read this book. 1. I like the song. 2. I liked the cover. 3. Favorable reviews on GRs. 4. Free download from the library. But I would not have chosen to read the book solely on the synopsis of this book. Reading about pregnant teens is not my firs choice. So imagine my surprise at how much I loved this book. The story is told in dual perspectives. Jill MacSweeney was once an outgoing girl with lots of friends and a boyfriend, Dillon. She turns inward, and pushes her friends, Dillon and mother, Robin, away after she lost the one person who understood her, her father. One day Jill’s mother decides she wants to adopt a baby and she feels as if her mother is trying to replace her father. Enter Mandy Kalinowski, a teenage girl, pregnant and desperate to get away from her life. I don’t blame her, she had a mother who did not want her and told her so at every turn. Mandy’s mother had boyfriend after boyfriend, and Mandy had to move in with and adjust to each one. Both girls’ lives needed some saving. This book was moving. It had the potential to be sappy, but it didn’t go there. It is hard to explain what made me love this book, the words are hard to find. I identify with Jill. I have a tendency to keep to myself and hold people at a distance sometimes. Maybe I should stop being like that. Mandy was heartbreaking. Here’s a little bit of her…… (view spoiler)[ About the 100th time someone yells at me to push. I think no. I would say it out loud if I thought I had the strength. I’d look at Robin and say it. I know what she’d say back, that I have to start saying yes. I have to start saying yes. I give my whole body to yes. Yes to trust. Yes to a new family. Yes to hope. Yes to staying. Yes to my daughter. Yes to me. Yes. (hide spoiler)] This made me think. I need to start saying yes more. So I immediately said yes to a MaryKay party (I normally would have avoided at all costs) and had myself plastered with makeup. Not really my kind of thing, but I had fun and I didn’t look all that bad. Not remotely tart like. Glad I said “yes”.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    “And here I am, all of those small hopes getting me from one day to the next, the way they my whole life.” Initial Final Page Thoughts. Wow. Captivating. High Point. The ladies. The gentlemen. Train stations. Raw. Emotional. Coffee. Pancakes. Pho. Old friends. New friends. Moving on. Siblings. Cornfields, Ferris wheels and stars. Low Point. This isn’t really a low point but I couldn’t really think of one so I’m clutching right now. The ending was a little predictable but I think I would have bee “And here I am, all of those small hopes getting me from one day to the next, the way they my whole life.” Initial Final Page Thoughts. Wow. Captivating. High Point. The ladies. The gentlemen. Train stations. Raw. Emotional. Coffee. Pancakes. Pho. Old friends. New friends. Moving on. Siblings. Cornfields, Ferris wheels and stars. Low Point. This isn’t really a low point but I couldn’t really think of one so I’m clutching right now. The ending was a little predictable but I think I would have been angry/upset if it hadn’t ended like that. Also… I wish I hadn’t waited so long to read a Sara Zarr book. See, clutching? The Girls. Jill: Angry. Grieving. Prickly. Moody. Judgemental. Alternative (piercings, y’all. Definite sign of a delinquent). Alienates herself and everyone. A bad friend. A crappy daughter. A worse girlfriend. Verdict: I spent half the time wanting to punch her and tell her to stop being such a massive bitch. Mandy: Sad. Insecure. Screwed up. Unloved. Needy. Nervous. Stalker-ish tendencies. Creepy. Odd. A fondness for bad television. Verdict: I wanted to give her a massive cuddle…. Then back away slowly while trying not to make any sudden movements and then proceed to move house and change my name so she’d never find me. Gosh, these ladies certainly didn’t make it easy for me to like them. I didn’t agree with most of the things they did and I disagreed with about 96% of the decisions they made. I didn’t actually like them at all. But reading about their journeys, learning to trust, love, develop as people and find their place in the world was so compelling, I honestly didn’t want to say goodbye in the final chapter. I wanted to find out what happened to Jill and Mandy and I wanted to fast forward to a couple of years’ time and find out if they got the ending they so desperately wanted and needed. I hope so. The Boys. I don’t want to go into Mandy’s boys because it makes me too sad and I don’t want to spoil anything. So that leaves me with Jill. I know what you’re thinking. Boys? Plural? TWO BOYS? Surely you… surely you can’t mean a…. a…. NO. I do not mean a love triangle. Well… technically… but no. It’s not. AT ALL. Dylan and Ravi were my favourite characters in this story. They were so strong and caring and patient and so sweet and provided most of the comic relief. They were the boys you wish were in every YA book, because they also weren’t afraid to call Jill out when she was being a Grade A so and so. Because like I said… jeez, these girls were difficult to love and these guys have the patience of a saint. Both these guys got a bit of a rough deal in this story. My favourite was Ravi. He’s definitely the kind of boy I would pretend I liked coffee for. Yeah, my love ran deep for Ravi. But I did develop a certain soft spot for Dylan with his bleached hair, tattoos, piercings and… yes… even his eyeliner. Um… well no, the eyeliner still bothered me. But that’s nothing a face wipe won’t sort out. Theme Tune. I struggled with finding a song for this because it’s such a complex story and it’s not an easy one to pin down (as you can tell by this haphazard review). Also, no prizes for guessing which song I’ve had in my head all week. So I know I’m kind of copping out on this one because it’s mentioned quite extensively within this book. But why would I bother trawling through my music when I have a stellar song already provided for me? Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding. Sadness Scale. 10/10. This book made me ache with… I don’t know what. Sadness? Yes. Anger? Yes. Butterflies? Yes. Hope? Yes. It is so obvious that raw, brutal emotions are Ms Zarr’s speciality. I know a lot of people will have problems with the ending and, like I said before, it is a little predictable but it never strayed into the overly-saccharine territories that it could so easily have done. Without getting too sickening and cliché on you, the reason why I didn’t cringe at the ending was because it was far from twee, with everything tied up in a pretty little box with a convenient bow. Jill and Mandy came a long way in this book… but that final couple of chapters illustrated they still have a long way to go. Recommended For. People who are looking for immaculately written, contemporary YA fiction. People who are looking for their mirror image. People who love train journeys. People who like bad Mexican food and pancakes. People who would like to go on a stakeout with a tall, dark, stranger. Coffee not included. A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Keertana

    I cried. As someone who is frequently teased for never having cried during "The Notebook" or "The Titanic" and rather well-known for my ice-cold heart, this admission carries quite a bit of weight. How to Save a Life is a novel that hasn't gone unnoticed by readers, but I remained skeptical about reading it myself. Frankly speaking, I find little allure in novels about teenage pregnancy, let alone when paired alongside with grief. After reading - and absolutely loving - Small Damages earlier thi I cried. As someone who is frequently teased for never having cried during "The Notebook" or "The Titanic" and rather well-known for my ice-cold heart, this admission carries quite a bit of weight. How to Save a Life is a novel that hasn't gone unnoticed by readers, but I remained skeptical about reading it myself. Frankly speaking, I find little allure in novels about teenage pregnancy, let alone when paired alongside with grief. After reading - and absolutely loving - Small Damages earlier this year, however, I began to realize that my pre-conceived notions about novels that dealt with teen pregnancy were utterly unfounded. And How to Save a Life simply proved me right. Sara Zarr's most popular novel lives up to its hype and delivered above and beyond my sky-high expectations, instantly making her one of my favorite authors. Ever. How to Save a Life alternates between the perspectives of Jill and Mandy whose voices are so distinct and yet carry the same underlying current of one who is lost. Mandy, who has grown up with her mother, has always felt the distinct loss of love in her life. Thus, when she becomes pregnant, she vows to take care of her child and provide her in a way her mother has never been able to. Although all Mandy knows is that she is beautiful, her heart is kind and she quickly finds a family to adopt her child. Jill, who has recently lost her father, is grieving. Jill has always been closer to her father, more like him than her mother, and as such, she is unable to understand her mother's desire to adopt a child - and its mother, temporarily. When Jill and Mandy's lives collide and come together under the same roof, their initial interactions are cold and one-sided, with Jill refuses to make Mandy feel at home. And yet, as she will soon find out, Jill needs Mandy and Mandy's child just as much as her mother needs her - and Mandy just may need the both of them too. Unflinching honesty is what I can always count on from Sara Zarr - and I love that. Jill is hurting, lashing out and isolating herself from others to keep her grief contained. And yet, she acknowledges that even without the ache of a missing father, she was always the type of introvert who was distant, prone to say things without thinking and rude to a fault at times. Yet, the very moment Jill came onto the page, I understood her and her narration captured my heart. Whether it was her awkward interactions, screaming for help, with her boyfriend or even the difficult manner in which she tried - and failed - to connect with her mother, Jill is such an endearing character. Although she appears to be a cactus, instantly pricking those who come too close, her inner strength is incredible and her character persona is real in its flaws. Mandy, on the other hand, was a character I took awhile to warm up to. When we first meet Mandy, she is chatting up a fellow stranger on a train, helplessly trying to ingratiate herself within his life, much to his surprise. And yet, although Mandy seems like a creep at first, we recognize her actions as a sign of longing - for love, for a place to belong, for people who accept her. In Jill's life, Mandy is both worried at the prospect of finding a new life for herself after her baby is born and frightened that Jill's mother will regret her decision to bring Mandy into her home. Jill, of course, does not trust Mandy at all, but with time, these two grow to share a close bond. Mandy's narration is filled more with day-to-day musings or past recollections rather than the busy life that Jill leads, but both are just as poignant. I especially enjoyed all the care given to mention Mandy's child and her own conflicted feelings over giving up the baby and wanting a better home for it. For many teens, myself included, Mandy's feelings are difficult to understand and even for adults, it's a challenge to allow yourself to put yourself in a situation the way Mandy did. And yet, Zarr makes us come to understand Mandy perfectly, delving into her mind and witnessing her steady growth as she comes to realize where - and who - she truly belongs with. While these two girls, vivid protagonists whose lives seem so real, are the heart of How to Save a Life, so many other aspects made me appreciate it as well. First and foremost, it must be noted that I fell hard for the romance in this novel. For some reason, grief and romance go so well together - not entirely sure why - but for the first time, I think I understood. Jill's grief makes her closed off to others, but one boy in particular is able to understand her and look at her, not with sympathy or pity, but with empathy. With him, Jill is able to confront her past ghosts and come to terms with her father's death, along with the new change in her life that includes Mandy and a baby - one who will be Jill's younger sister or brother. One of the reasons this romance is so strong is because it is built upon conversation. Here are two people who meet and meet and meet again, doing nothing but talking and pouring their hearts out to one another, and that makes it perfect. Furthermore, their ending is open and ambiguous, but that's what makes it oh-so-perfect. It was flawed, but most importantly, it was real and never contrived or forced. It is, hands down, one of my favorite literary romances of all time. And I can assure you, I never expected to find that in this book, but the fact that I did spoke volumes. Moreover, this book is so much more than a tale of two girls who grow to find solitude and acceptance in each other. Mandy and Jill teach each other so much about life, but they affect the lives of so many others too. Jill's mother, for instance, is also grieving and her struggles as a parent never overtook the plot, but they were given their due. Additionally, there is the comfort that Mandy grows to feel and that feeling of safety, to feel that wrapping itself around Mandy when it was never there before, is so heart-breaking. We don't realize it ourselves, having been enveloped in it for nearly all our lives, but to see it assume its shape upon Mandy was one of the most brilliant developments that steadily occurred as the novel wore on. How to Save a Life is not a novel that can be explained in chapters or with words. It is, truly, an experience of living and letting go and embracing the future. Of accepting others and moving on, no matter what dark forces you have to combat. And, most importantly, of finding the courage to open up to the people who will stand there and fight the dark with you. You can read this review" and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    In a word? Real. Through the perspectives of two teen girls, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE explores two extremely intense, emotional, and dramatic experiences — the sudden death of a parent and an unplanned teen pregnancy (and all the complications, pain, loss, fear, love, and hope that can arise from each) — in a compelling and page-turning way that never resorts to melodrama or forced emotion. On every page, through every confrontation and thought, through the internal and external changes both girls endu In a word? Real. Through the perspectives of two teen girls, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE explores two extremely intense, emotional, and dramatic experiences — the sudden death of a parent and an unplanned teen pregnancy (and all the complications, pain, loss, fear, love, and hope that can arise from each) — in a compelling and page-turning way that never resorts to melodrama or forced emotion. On every page, through every confrontation and thought, through the internal and external changes both girls endure and bring about, I believed these girls. I knew them. They were just so real. Angsty, lost, deeply wounded by the sudden death of her father and the huge hole his absence has left in her life, Jill MacSweeney is dangerously close to shutting down, shutting herself away from the world. Yet something inside her still flickers, something still open to new love and friendships, no matter how hard she rails against it in her day-to-day life. Naive and immature on the surface, Mandy Kalinowski is understandably desperate for love, connection, and the basic human acknowledgement that she’s a person, that she matters. Like Jill, Mandy has been torn apart by the loss and longing that comes from a broken family. Their lives intersect when Jill’s mother, still reeling from the death of her husband and desperate to put her family back together, decides to adopt Mandy’s unborn baby. She invites Mandy to stay with them in Colorado during the final weeks of her pregnancy so that they can handle the transition without lawyers or agencies. And while not all readers will have experienced the death of a parent and planned adoption of a new sibling like Jill has, or a teen pregnancy and difficult home life like Mandy has, Zarr still brings the story to all of us in personal and memorable ways. Who hasn’t struggled to find their place in the world? Who hasn’t felt the desire to run away, to start again? Who hasn’t doubted their closest relationships, struggled to find “home,” or felt like an outsider in their own families? The story is told in first person alternating points of view, which is a huge and admirable challenge for authors because the characters’ voices and perspectives must be unique, equally compelling, equally important, and wholly necessary. And each alternating scene must cover new ground while at the same time conveying each characters’ thoughts, feelings, and reactions to shared moments and events through their own unique perspectives. Zarr crafts the point of view switches beautifully. I was immediately drawn to each girl for very different reasons, and found myself at times connecting with one more than the other, then my feelings would change, then change again, until ultimately I was so wrapped up in the outcome of their shared story that I simply couldn’t put the book down until I knew how things would turn out for both of them. Zarr has a talent for telling the story. By that, I mean, her books are never weighed down with extraneous detail, melodrama, or flowery, unnecessary language. Like her previous works, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE showcases this minimalist style beautifully, but it also weaves in layers emotion and detail so delicately — almost imperceptibly — that by the last page, the characters will so thoroughly invade your heart that you’ll feel like you’d been through it yourselves, right along with Jill and Mandy. It’s a rare gift for an author to be able to disappear completely from the narrative, and Zarr does it seamlessly. I forgot about her as I got lost in the pages, in the lives of these girls. Zarr makes the storytelling seem effortless — something I admire and appreciate as both an author and a reader. I’ve read and enjoyed all of Zarr’s books, but HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is officially my favorite.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Komal Mikaelson

    My initial reaction after completing this book- If I could, I'd give this book not only 5, but a million shining and glowing stars that would live up to what this book is really worth. You know, how there are 2 types of books. The first type are the ones that don't leave such an impression on you. They just pass by you without marking their presence and you move on with your life with no alterations on your part. And the second type are a whole lotta different. They run through your head hours afte My initial reaction after completing this book- If I could, I'd give this book not only 5, but a million shining and glowing stars that would live up to what this book is really worth. You know, how there are 2 types of books. The first type are the ones that don't leave such an impression on you. They just pass by you without marking their presence and you move on with your life with no alterations on your part. And the second type are a whole lotta different. They run through your head hours after turning the last page. They coerce you to ponder about the story, the characters, the words. You live the book as opposed to simply reading it. The books that are so hauntingly beautiful and life changing that you pause a moment and realise the true beauty of the book and emerge a different better person. You live them, breathe them, love them. How TO Save A Life by Sara Zarr falls effortlessly into the second category. This was my first book by the author and I am awed. Awed. Fascinated. Enraptured. The story was pretty simple and straightforward. It follows the life of two teenagers- Jill and Mandy. Jill is a senior who is just recuperating from the recent death of her father. She is rude to the point of bitchiness, she is bitter, she is sullen and doesn't even regret it. Her behavior was understandable and predictable, if not a bit extreme. During the course of the novel, I was so exasperated with her being bitchy and shutting everyone out that i literally wanted to slap her. Yes, I know your father died and you're going through a rough patch but still. Seriously girl, try a little tenderness! ;) Nevertheless, it was much easier to understand the crabbiness than the crap in Fall For Anything. And then Mandy. She was polar different from Jill. She's pregnant and is giving up her baby in an open adoption to Jill's mother, Robin.When the delivery date nears, she moves in with Robin and Jill. And this is the part where the lies and deception start. No, not the kind of lies that are probably running through your head- the mafia lies, the killing lies. They were just innocent lies, said to soothe and uplift Robin's numb heart. She was so lost and child-like. It was heart rending to read about the kind of life she had had. I mean, just imagine the kind of life where your mother accuses you for being a burden. Who blames you for every thing gone wrong in her life, each day every day. Sad, isn't it? It was humbling, her behaviour. But she was tad bit weird too. You know the kind of people who force their friendship onto you and won't leave you alone and they tell all kinds of things about themselves and you are left feeling all awkward and flustered. She was just like that. But after getting to know her, I can honestly say she was a real sweetheart. Now, the prose was phenomenal. It is amazing to look at the way Miss Zarr string a couple of words together and creates such sentences that you want to stop and reread them to try and absorb their meaning. To feel them, to taste them, like they are something palpable. And, trust me, I can really vouch for it, seeing how half the text of my book is highlighted. The story follows Jill as how she opens up again and gains acceptance of her father's death. Of how she finally learns to let go. How she begins to hope and live again. She discovers that its alright to be wrong once in a while. Mandy discovers that maybe her life isn't all that bad and its alright to trust someone other than yourself and they won't let you down. The book was so poignantly sad and beautiful that at times I really was smiling through my tears. The author manages to steer the plot so gracefully that there isn't a dull moment. The relationships portrayed in the book are very real and brutally honest. The characters, oh the characters, they are so real, so strong and so mature that it was difficult to imagine that they were really teenagers. And the review cannot truly be complete without a reference to Robin, Jill's mother. She was utterly, undeniably, flawlessly perfect. Not the perfect perfect. But the imperfections-make-you-perfect. She was the perfect kind of loving mother, the grieving kind of wife, the rock of relationships. It was refreshing to read about the mother-daughter bond that is conveniently absent in most of the YA, courtesy the least resistant path for The Boyfriend to come and go as he pleases. The Best Parts Dylan. The prose. Ravi. Robin. The phone calls. Christopher. Eyeliner. Yearbook. Lola. The necklace. Peanut butter...and just about everything else. Summing up, To Miss Zarr, To the people who haven't read this yet, you really don't wanna miss this one. Get your hands on it now! A definite MUST-READ

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    How to Save a Life touched me in the way not many novels have. Sara Zarr, an expert in her field of YA contemporaries, crafted a unique story of family, love, independence and dependance, without alienating her readers with a story too bizarre to believe. With inspirational writing and beautiful, multidimensional characters, this novel isn't one soon to be forgotten. The MacSweeneys lost a husband and father a year ago, and while the wife, Robin, has been doing everything she can to keep going - How to Save a Life touched me in the way not many novels have. Sara Zarr, an expert in her field of YA contemporaries, crafted a unique story of family, love, independence and dependance, without alienating her readers with a story too bizarre to believe. With inspirational writing and beautiful, multidimensional characters, this novel isn't one soon to be forgotten. The MacSweeneys lost a husband and father a year ago, and while the wife, Robin, has been doing everything she can to keep going - even if it involves changing - her daughter, Jill, is just trying to stay the same, and keep his memory in complete tact. When Robin springs the idea of open-adoption on her daughter the winter after the death, Jill's in absolute shock. How can her mother even think of bringing life to a home so ridden in death? How can she accept a random high-school dropout into their home for a month, accept her child, without a lawyer or a contract? How can she possibly be trying to replace her father? Open adoption? Although it isn't an oddity, or rare, it's not something talked about much on the streets; luckily, Zarr was able to open her mind, and the mind of readers, to spontaneity and unconditional, irrational love. There's a very subtle theme in How to Save a Life, and it's that you can be loved no matter what has happened to you or who you are, and that everyone has a right to be loved. Some of the lines could have come off tired and preachy, but Zarr wrote with a certainty that screamed to me as a reader, that told me she had some pretty solid things going for her. This book reads like a very mature YA novel - it could very well be an adult book, and I'm sure an adult audience would appreciate this more than an average teen - aside from the ever-there presence of adolescents and their extremities. The characters in How to Save a Life are hard to like. They're aloof, odd, horrible and rude. They all have huge faults, they're all creatively insane, and they each have their stupid moments. And they're all a little bit muddled, and hurt, stung. The thing is, though, is that it's very hard not to relate to them. Because, man, did I see a hell of a lot of myself in Jill, as I'm sure many people will. Jill isn't a simple character - most real people aren't - and she was very hard to deal with. She broke out in tears a lot, she was coldhearted and bitchy, she was unable to deal with loss and understanding love, and she had no idea where she wanted to go in life - for these reasons, I think she's one of the most enjoyable characters around. Mandy, the pregnant eighteen year old with a messy past and an attachment issue, is uncomfortable at first, as she's simply one who's everywhere with everything (from her emotions to her decisions to her thoughts), but I guess she's the person you'd be if you aren't a Jill. Zarr writes love interests well, too, even if they don't always seem like love interests at all times. Absent but mentioned, apart but disjointed, the boys in How to Save a Life are more than just the catalysts for their women. Zarr wrote relationships, all kinds of relationships, with a startling acuteness that read like a mirror of reality, because really, boys who wear makeup, and ripped jeans, and listen to Otis...they're real, they're alive, they have feelings, but they're rarely done well in literature. The mother-daughter relationship between Jill and Robin, and Robin and Mandy was heartbreaking and realistic, because really, mothers and daughters? Their relationships? They're a lot more complicated than some authors make them out to be, and they're very hard to reflect, even in real-life conversations. The sisterly-stuff going on between Jill and Mandy touched my heart deeply, and each conversation that went on between them brought tears to my eyes. I want to recommend this book to everyone with and without an open mind, and for readers of YA that are tired of boy-meets-girl, girl-has-home-problem stories. I love those books, but sometimes, you want something a little more...real. How to Save a Life is one of the best written dramas I've read all year, and I think you'd be missing out by not giving this spectacular novel a go.

  16. 5 out of 5

    may ❀

    This is the first book that I’ve read entirely as an audiobook so it’s probably going to impact my thoughts on this book. Despite how cheesy the quote seems, How to Save a Life is a tale on overcoming the hardships you face in your life. From the dual perspective of Jill MacSweeney and Mandy Kalinowski, they relate the tale of their disoriented lives that somehow clashed when Mandy meets Jill’s mother online. Jill is an isolated, irritable girl who is still getting over her father’s death. She This is the first book that I’ve read entirely as an audiobook so it’s probably going to impact my thoughts on this book. Despite how cheesy the quote seems, How to Save a Life is a tale on overcoming the hardships you face in your life. From the dual perspective of Jill MacSweeney and Mandy Kalinowski, they relate the tale of their disoriented lives that somehow clashed when Mandy meets Jill’s mother online. Jill is an isolated, irritable girl who is still getting over her father’s death. She has pushed away her friends, boyfriend and locked herself in a black-hole of angst and self-pity. Mandy, on the other hand, is pregnant teen and comes from a highly dysfunctional family. If there’s one thing she’s sure about it’s that she will not stand to watch her child grow up like her, so she puts up her baby for adoption. As the lives of these two girls blend, they are faced with new challenges and discover new things like the fear the future holds and the strength and support that comes from family. What I loved most about this book was the outstanding theme of family. It was portrayed extremely well through the perspective of the girls and it really showed such a stark difference. I really enjoyed reading about the girls and how they lived in their respective homes. Where Jill came from a regular home with loving parents and a group of chatty friends, Mandy never knew her father and was unfamiliar with the concept of friends. “My whole life has been one big broken promise.” There were so many aspects of life that this book discussed and in such an integrating manner. Love, life, friendship, growth. So many different types of love were represented as well. From mother to daughter, daughter to father, girl to boy, sibling to sibling, it was all done to effortlessly and I really appreciated that. Thought this was a thoughtful read, I didn’t find it to ever be compelling in a way that brought tears to my eyes or made me stop and rethink my life. It was just very pleasant and easy to listen to. Just be warned that there are mature themes suggested in this book. “No one measures a life in weeks and days. You measure life in years and by the things that happen to you.” 3 stars!!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Lord. A book about pregnant teenagers. In my hands. Read by my eyes. How do I get myself into these things? Starts out, I ordered the ARC (releases in 1/12) because of the cool cover. What's weird, though, is that the cover on Goodreads shows a girl on the bench to the right. My ARC shows two empty benches. < cue Twilight Zone music > I also thought the girls in my classroom might like it. On that count I'm right. They will. Even I did. How, how, how? A tip of the hat to Sara Zarr. She took a rid Lord. A book about pregnant teenagers. In my hands. Read by my eyes. How do I get myself into these things? Starts out, I ordered the ARC (releases in 1/12) because of the cool cover. What's weird, though, is that the cover on Goodreads shows a girl on the bench to the right. My ARC shows two empty benches. < cue Twilight Zone music > I also thought the girls in my classroom might like it. On that count I'm right. They will. Even I did. How, how, how? A tip of the hat to Sara Zarr. She took a ridiculous premise and made me forget it. A woman and her high school daughter have just lost their husband/dad to a car accident and seek to complete his joint wish to adopt. Only instead of getting a baby from the adoption agency, they get the teen mom-to-be in the last weeks of her pregnancy. She's expected to have the baby, hand it over, then leave. Who does that? No one that I've ever heard of (not that I'm savvy on adoption practices). But I overlooked it. Or eventually forgot it. Because? Because of the characterization. Zarr knows her way around a gray area, and the two "battling" girls -- pregnant Mandy and distrustful Jill -- are no treat, either of them. Which makes them a treat. If that makes sense. Does it? Back and forth they go in alternating POV chapters. Boyfriends are thrown in the mix, and neither girl is above a little of the Machiavellian stuff. I enjoyed the realism, in other words. I enjoyed that neither girl was exactly likable. Or predictable. It served the book well. The bonus? As the novel wound down to Mandy's due date, her unpredictable behavior became all the more intriguing. What would this kid do? And in the end, would the book deliver? Of course. And a bit predictably too, turns out. But who cares? I'm actually endorsing a YA prego book. If that isn't a victory of immense proportions for the Zarr side, what is? Recommended for girls (and damn brave 8th grade boys).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I have no idea what is wrong with me. Everybody I know loves this book but I just didn't for some reason. The story was there and all the emotions but for me is just fell flat. The basic story revolves around Jill and her mom Robin who have just lost their father/husband and what happens when Robin decides to adopt a baby. Mandy is the biological mother and her story was definitely harder for me to read but again her character just didn't quite get there for me. I thought that Jill should have h I have no idea what is wrong with me. Everybody I know loves this book but I just didn't for some reason. The story was there and all the emotions but for me is just fell flat. The basic story revolves around Jill and her mom Robin who have just lost their father/husband and what happens when Robin decides to adopt a baby. Mandy is the biological mother and her story was definitely harder for me to read but again her character just didn't quite get there for me. I thought that Jill should have had to own up to a few things throughout the book and for some reason the author just gave her a by on all of it. I know she was grieving but everybody should have to say they are sorry at one point. I also didn't care for the neat and happy bow and the end. I guess I thought that this book would have been more realistic but that ending was just way too much over the top and I really wanted to just stick a big red bow on it. I think these are all probably just my problems and that most people will love this book. I think Zarr has a talent for writing and there were a few times throughout the book that got me a little emotional with Mandy's story but overall I just didn't care for this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Darling

    Really, really great. I'm putting all the other Sara Zarr books on my TBR immediately.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}

    What I thought of when I saw the title: The Fray's How to Save A Life. Reactive Attachment Disorder is an incredibly sad thing because it's the hallmark of neglect, parental and otherwise, sometimes leading to 'excessive familiarity with relative strangers' to fulfil the all-consuming need for love, attention and affection they've never received. Witnessing Mandy forming unhealthy attachments to people she's just met is excruciating. Once you hear her story, you just want to pull her away from he What I thought of when I saw the title: The Fray's How to Save A Life. Reactive Attachment Disorder is an incredibly sad thing because it's the hallmark of neglect, parental and otherwise, sometimes leading to 'excessive familiarity with relative strangers' to fulfil the all-consuming need for love, attention and affection they've never received. Witnessing Mandy forming unhealthy attachments to people she's just met is excruciating. Once you hear her story, you just want to pull her away from her old life and insecurities, give her a hug, take her home and take care of her and her unborn baby. I felt for each and every one of the characters. They may not be the most likeable in the world but they're real, complicated and going through terrible times. I understood why each acted as they did: why Jill rejected the notion of her mother adopting a baby so soon after her dad died, why Robin (Jill's mother) wanted to do this and why she didn't go through legal channels to do so, and why Mandy lied so she could find a loving home for her baby to grow up in, thereby preventing her from suffering the same childhood she did and growing up to be like her or her mother. I sympathised with Jill. Struggling with her identity, redefining herself after her dad's death and figuring out what she wants and who she wants to be is difficult enough, but then having to accept this new person into your life who'll provide you with a baby sister, puts on even more pressure to come to terms with her grief, with her future and the need to move on, embrace life and take risks again. It's a deeply moving and depressing read, so much so that I was desperate for the predictable happily ever after. Thankfully, I got it. I would've been pretty mad if I hadn't. A new family and a new beginning is formed from the wreckage of four lives, bringing me to tears with the emotive subject matters of abuse, grief and fear for the future and the truly deep and realistic observations in the writing, together with fact that four lives, not one or two, are saved, make this a rare and favourite read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Isamlq

    I confess I’m a little in love with this story even if the characters are not that sympathetic to begin with. How to Save a Life is painful at times but definitely emotional with them finding what’s been lost and accepting, no, trusting that where they were was the right place to be. Mandy. Jill. Robin all have something to deal with, but none of them really do so. The first runs away. The second freezes everyone out. And the last seems to think a do over is best. At least this is how they all I confess I’m a little in love with this story even if the characters are not that sympathetic to begin with. How to Save a Life is painful at times but definitely emotional with them finding what’s been lost and accepting, no, trusting that where they were was the right place to be. Mandy. Jill. Robin all have something to deal with, but none of them really do so. The first runs away. The second freezes everyone out. And the last seems to think a do over is best. At least this is how they all initially seem to be. But none of them were as simple as I had first pegged. And my heart hurt for each of them. As a little more of their history was shown, I saw that just like Once Was Lost and Sweethearts, this is another quietly emotional story of second chances. It’s just that the people could be so hard to like. Mandy… awkward is what comes to mind. I could tell she wasn’t used to people and it showed. How she latched onto Alex. How she picked Robin. How she asked questions of Jill. Awkward… but sadly never quite that sweet-awkward combination to have me feeling protective of her. She’s awkward. Period. So, I had a difficult time liking her. I suppose there was a sliver of truth in her mother’s observations regarding her social skills (or lack there of.) Except as always, there’s a reason behind it (a reason that’s alluded to time and time again,) that had me unsettled. But there’s little question at the back of my head that’s weighing things she’d done and maybe even thinking the girl… brave. That she stepped out and offered herself to strangers. (view spoiler)[I would never have the guts to write to a total strange about everything and anything going on the teeny hope that a connection had been made. Brave or not… it was scary anticipating what would happen or more likely what wouldn’t happen because of her action (hide spoiler)] Then there’s Jill, who’d frozen everyone out, but was trying to get back to where she and who she was before everything had changed. Reading part of her trying to do these was painful as well. Because there’s so much grief there, so much anger too. Yet the two aren’t that different. Mandy’s simple wants may not be the same as Jill’s but that fact does not make them any less meaningful. Where she wants handwritten letter to feel connected, the other one wants to find her way back: different desires, but both deeply meaningful. And Robin. I think it’s her part of the story that delivered the biggest surprise. Her relationship with Jill was heartbreak in action. These are two women who know each other, each other’s quirks, and past. …Or at least used to know each other. There’s particular moment (view spoiler)[when her mother asks why she’d changed and her responding with a question of why her mother had not (hide spoiler)] that did it for me and had me tearing up. They were fascinating, frustrating and heartbreaking all at once: them, tiptoeing around each other; them, not knowing how to be with each other. Again I may be slightly in love with the story but not necessarily with the characters. Read this 4/5

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristy

    #1: The Fray's song "How to save a life" has been stuck in my head the entire time while reading this.... and it's very fitting. #2: The cover makes me want to bundle up even though we are having a HOT fall day down here is Georgia (seriously, it was 80 degrees today). #3: For whatever reason I find the cover makes me feel lonely. #4: Thanks Crystal for sending me this one!!! (this should be #1, but I am too lazy to go back and change it) So, this is a story told from two points of views, Mandy and #1: The Fray's song "How to save a life" has been stuck in my head the entire time while reading this.... and it's very fitting. #2: The cover makes me want to bundle up even though we are having a HOT fall day down here is Georgia (seriously, it was 80 degrees today). #3: For whatever reason I find the cover makes me feel lonely. #4: Thanks Crystal for sending me this one!!! (this should be #1, but I am too lazy to go back and change it) So, this is a story told from two points of views, Mandy and Jill. Mandy is 19 and pregnant. She is giving her baby away to Jill's Mother, Robin. She has had a tough life. Her mom is absolutely horrid and her step-father has sexually abused her so many times she secretly worries this baby could be his. Her hope is the baby will be Christopher's, a boy she met at a fair and had a one night stand with. In her mind though, she really loves him. (Not a pretty picutre all the way around) Jill is a high-school girl grieving the loss of her Dad. She has lost most of her friends. She really doesn't know who she is anymore. Her Mother has the hairbrained idea to adopt this baby involving no lawyers and no middle men. Jill sees this as a HUGE problem. She doesn't trust Mandy. She doesn't trust her Mom's judgment. She is skeptical of everything. She thinks her mom is trying to patch a whole in her heart with this baby. She is angry, sad, jealous and confused. She is a mess. This book was sad and hard to read at times. Others it was funny and quirky. Mandy was a hard character for me to like. Jill was snarky, but atleast she had personality. The Mom's decision to not involve any lawyers or social services was just stupid in my opinion. Yes, everything works out magically in the end, but this entire deal was so unlikely. 3 words to decribed this book; Depressing, unlikely and heartfelt (yes, I know the last one is kind of out in left field, but the author does write in a way that can call out to your heart if you will let it.) 3.5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    Original post at One More Page It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, but now she just feels angry that her mom had decided to do the unthinkable: adopt a baby. And not just adopt a baby, but let the mother of the baby live with them until the baby is delivered. Mandy Kalinowski is the pregnant girl in question, and she's always known how it feels to be unwanted. Mandy wants a better life for her baby, and she thinks Original post at One More Page It's a bad time for Jill MacSweeny ever since her father died. Always a daddy's girl, Jill feels lost without her dad, but now she just feels angry that her mom had decided to do the unthinkable: adopt a baby. And not just adopt a baby, but let the mother of the baby live with them until the baby is delivered. Mandy Kalinowski is the pregnant girl in question, and she's always known how it feels to be unwanted. Mandy wants a better life for her baby, and she thinks Robin MacSweeny would be able to give just that. She moves in with them as agreed, and she finds Robin to be a very nice person, even if her daughter Jill never liked Mandy. But as her due date grows nearer, she's faced with doubts: can she really let her baby go? And if she does, what happens to her after that? I was pretty sure I was going to like How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, but I was surprised at how much I ended up loving it. I'm a big fan of Sara Zarr, not just her books but her posts at the Good Letters blog. She's quickly becoming one of my sources of inspiration online, and I like that her books reflect what she believe in. I wanted to read this as soon as I got it, but I kind of feared that I wasn't ready for the emotional punch that it had, especially after most of the reviews said a lot about tears being shed and all that. But the good reviews gave me something to look forward to, so reading it at the start of 2012 felt like a perfect gift for myself. Like in Sara Zarr's other books, there is a quiet beauty in how Jill and Mandy's story unfolded. They were two characters from the opposite ends of the spectrum, clashing horribly at first. Honestly, I thought both characters were unlikeable. When I read Jill's parts, I wanted to shake her for being so bitter and out of it. She reminded me a bit of Macy in The Truth About Forever, but also not quite because Macy seemed easier to approach compared to Jill who completely shut everyone out. Mandy, on the other hand, is someone who I would probably steer clear from if I met someone like her in real life. I could understand why Jill would rather avoid her, aside from the fact that she was carrying the baby that Jill never wanted to be a part of their family. Mandy is socially awkward and more often than not, the things she says hit the wrong note in other people who do not know how to be patient with her. I admit to be that kind of person, unfortunately, so sometimes reading Mandy's chapters were a struggle. Oh, but I also ached for her so much, too. The two grew on me as the story went on, and it wasn't even because there were drastic changes to their personality. In fact, the changes that happened to them didn't feel like changes at all -- they were choices. The choice to do something right, to think of others first, the choice to love in spite of and because of things they cannot understand. It all unfolds beautifully in the story, and it filled my heart with so much love for these two girls that I just want the best for them too. Normally I would ramble on about how the plot was good and how the other characters were equally as good here, but to be perfectly honest, I can't. Not that the other characters weren't good (they were, and they were very fun to read) or the plot was bad (it wasn't, although the predictability factor is high). It's just that the book really concentrates on how Jill and Mandy's lives were changed and saved by the choices that they and the people who loved them made. It all came together so beautifully that I didn't care if I sort of predicted the ending pages ago -- it was still worth getting to it. I was happy that it ended that way. Overall, How to Save a Life is a story of family and love, and how that kind of love can really save a life. I end this review with a quote from her post about the book on the Good Letters Blog, which I think sums up why I loved this book so much: As reluctant as I am to talk about “themes” in my work or to explain it or myself, I can see, after four published novels and three unpublished, that this idea of intentional family, of claiming and being claimed, is one of the themes lurking beneath and hovering around all of my work. My stories seem to always involve people choosing to love other people, in spite of the pain those people have sometimes brought them, in spite of the way they let each other down, in spite of both their minor imperfections and deep flaws. In the interviews I've done about How to Save a Life thus far, nine times out of ten I'm asked if I worried that one of the characters, Jill, was unsympathetic or unlikeable. No, I say. I didn't worry about it. My editor did, to an extent, and I worked a little on showing glimpses of Jill's humanity. But not much. Because the point about love, this free will love of the people we call family or true friends, the people we take into our lives, the ones that lead us to claim “you are mine,” is that it doesn't depend on them (or us) being sympathetic characters. It's the kind of love we all hope for.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annalisa

    I love Sara Zarr. The way she quietly weaves stories and settings and characters, always broken, ones you want to protect. Honest and raw. Shown not told. Stories you feel. I normally don't pay much attention to titles, but this one stuck with me, and not just because I kept singing it. I thought it was perfect. All the characters caught up in their own grief and fears and Zarr set out to change them, to save them, through each other. I had an idea how it would all turn out, but I still couldn't I love Sara Zarr. The way she quietly weaves stories and settings and characters, always broken, ones you want to protect. Honest and raw. Shown not told. Stories you feel. I normally don't pay much attention to titles, but this one stuck with me, and not just because I kept singing it. I thought it was perfect. All the characters caught up in their own grief and fears and Zarr set out to change them, to save them, through each other. I had an idea how it would all turn out, but I still couldn't stop reading because I had to know that they'd be okay. Jill was mean and snarky and I still wanted to save her. Mandy was so shallow and stupid, but I worried about her. She was the right amount of flawed and vulnerable for me to root for, they both were. It's a poignant story with just the right amount of feeling, without being cheesy, and the right about of character development, without being impossible. A little predictable, but it ended exactly as I wanted it to. I highly recommend it for young-adult contemporary.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This was really good. How to Save a Life is a YA novel about 2 teenage girls whose lives intersect at a time they are both going though big, life-changing events. It was nothing like I thought it was going to be, but turned out to be a good story. Mandy was an interesting character. She was odd and broken and hopeful. Jill was more of a typical, privileged-but-not-spoiled, teenage girl. Both characters grew on me as they dealt with their struggles- Mandy especially. If you like YA, give this one This was really good. How to Save a Life is a YA novel about 2 teenage girls whose lives intersect at a time they are both going though big, life-changing events. It was nothing like I thought it was going to be, but turned out to be a good story. Mandy was an interesting character. She was odd and broken and hopeful. Jill was more of a typical, privileged-but-not-spoiled, teenage girl. Both characters grew on me as they dealt with their struggles- Mandy especially. If you like YA, give this one a shot. (And if you encounter a bit of a slow start like I did, know that it is well worth continuing on.)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nomes

    oh this was so brilliant it makes me ache. full review to come (when i am not feeling so lazy ;)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    After writing a review with a bajillion edits that ended up being longer than the original review itself, I thought, "Screw this, I'm just throwing it all out and starting from scratch." Which is why we're here! This book comes highly praised from a lot of my friends, most of whom seemed to have a far deeper emotional connection to everything than I did. This is one of those books where I can't understand the meaningful connection that everyone seems to have made to the storyline and the characte After writing a review with a bajillion edits that ended up being longer than the original review itself, I thought, "Screw this, I'm just throwing it all out and starting from scratch." Which is why we're here! This book comes highly praised from a lot of my friends, most of whom seemed to have a far deeper emotional connection to everything than I did. This is one of those books where I can't understand the meaningful connection that everyone seems to have made to the storyline and the characters because there were so many blatant flaws. For example, the prose. A lot of it was pretty good, but for the first 50 pages or so, it was fucking awful. Sentence fragment after sentence fragment after sentence fragment... after a while it made my head hurt. If this was supposed to be a stream-of-consciousness of Jill and Mandy's thoughts, I might've been able to understand it, but the way it was here, it seemed more like Zarr couldn't go five words without cutting herself off. After that, it got better. The prose was simple, but the sentences were much better crafted, and Jill and Mandy had believable voices. But it's with these voices that I found another problem, because while Jill and Mandy had believable voices, they also had the same voice. The two of them are very different characters (this being one of the things that I thought Zarr did well), but their voices are completely indistinguishable; had the publisher not given their chapters different fonts,* I would've had trouble figuring out who was narrating. But most of the positive reviews don't mention the prose. (Or the plot, but I'll get to that in a bit). What they do mention was the characters. And... yeah, the characters were, for the most part, done pretty well. Jill and Mandy may not have had separate voices, but their actions and personalities were quite distinctive. The side characters - Robin, Ravi, whoever Jill's boyfriend was named - also felt fully-formed and somewhat interesting. The narrators also had distinctive arcs which were realistic and somewhat interesting; Zarr certainly knows how to develop her characters. The problem was something that a lot of people noticed - neither narrator was likable. Mandy was annoying and needy, and Jill was a mean bitch. What a lot of people seem to think is that this was justified by their lives, that they had good reasons for being the people they were. My feelings about this are mixed; I agree that this was what Zarr was going for, but I'm not entirely sure if she succeeded. I thought Mandy was pretty good in this regard; by the end of the book, I felt like she had learned from her mistakes and become a better person, and that's what's important. But Jill, I'm not too sure about. I came up with a bunch of half-assed reasons for why her arc didn't work for me, none of which I really believed, but my inspiration to rewrite this review came when - EUREKA! - I figured out why I didn't like her: she never owns up to what she's done. She's an asshole to Mandy and a lot of others throughout the course of the novel, but this gets no resolution whatsoever; everybody forgives her for no reason without any effort on her part, and she never regrets anything she does. And that's why I couldn't stand her character arc. I FIGURED IT OUT! Seriously, that eluded me for so LONG.! Anyway. The biggest example of this problem comes when (view spoiler)[Jill asks Ravi to watch Mandy. So, let's agree on one thing first: that was an jerkish thing for her to do. I get that it came from her distrust of Mandy, but an invasion of Mandy's privacy and security like that took it to far. Agreed? Good. Now here's the problem: Mandy never finds out, Jill never regrets it, and the plot sort of just forgets about it. (hide spoiler)] Basically, Zarr let one of her characters get away with doing something horrible in the story without any of the accompanying guilt. And the entire point of Jill's arc was apparently supposed to be that she was getting over her father's death and becoming a better person, but there was too much reasonless forgiveness and not enough of Jill regretting what she'd done. Anyway, the other reason I think Mandy's arc was handled so much better was Zarr's handling of her pregnancy. I think this is where most people really fell in love with the book, and I can completely see why. Mandy's emotions during the pregnancy, her struggle to feel accepted, all of it was done wonderfully, to the point where I would've hardly cared if Jill was completely eliminated as a character. Mandy turned out to be wonderfully sympathetic, and her arc was the only reason I finished the book and gave it 3 stars. But remember the plot thread I mentioned above, where Jill did something horrible and got no consequences? There are a lot of threads like that, threads that begin and go nowhere, and others that come out of nowhere and are resolved with no buildup. It didn't feel at all like Zarr was using a synopsis; instead, I feel like she just wrote whatever came to mind. The biggest example of this, other than the one I gave above, came when we find out three quarters of the way through the book that Kent, Mandy's stepfather, was sexually abusive. Um... what? WHERE THE FUCK DID THAT COME FROM? Where was this for the first three quarters of the book? As good as Mandy's character arc was, it would've been so much better if Zarr had made that a factor the entire time. I can understand why Mandy didn't talk about it, but why didn't she think about it? Did it seriously never cross her mind for the first 300 pages? I don't buy it. I think that Zarr got the idea when she put it in and never bothered to put it in before that moment in the story. And that's a huge problem. Like, that's a huge problem. It was ridiculously sloppy, and it largely distracted from Mandy's character arc. So, this was a mixed bag. I can definitely understand why people liked it, but it didn't appeal to me at all. I suppose I could recommend it if you're interested in teen pregnancy, but other than that, I'd give it a pass. *Which I honestly think is the laziest thing ever. You shouldn't need to differentiate the fonts for me to tell their voices apart; if Zarr is a good enough writer for you to publish, I shouldn't need it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    TheBookSmugglers

    Originally posted on The Book Smugglers HERE I’ve been sitting here staring at this blank page for over an hour unable to start this review because every time I try I either 1) get all chocked up or 2) I deem the lines I wrote unworthy of this book and delete them. Let’s try this again: Jill and Mandy are the two narrators, as different from each other as the sun and the moon are yet both are equally suffering, struggling to find a place in the world. Mandy is pregnant and wants a better life for h Originally posted on The Book Smugglers HERE I’ve been sitting here staring at this blank page for over an hour unable to start this review because every time I try I either 1) get all chocked up or 2) I deem the lines I wrote unworthy of this book and delete them. Let’s try this again: Jill and Mandy are the two narrators, as different from each other as the sun and the moon are yet both are equally suffering, struggling to find a place in the world. Mandy is pregnant and wants a better life for her baby, a life she never had. She wants to give the baby away in an open adoption so that she can still be a part of the baby’s life in the future. Jill lost her father a few months back and he was her best friend and main supporter and they shared everything. Ever since then, Jill has been feeling like she lost herself somewhere in the past. All her relationships are strained: she turned her back to her friends; she can barely communicate with her boyfriend Dylan or with her mother, Robin. She is angry, defiant, grieving. She is also furious with her mother for wanting to adopt Mandy’s baby as though a baby could replace her father, for accepting an open adoption and for bringing Mandy into their lives and into their home. At first it seems we know a lot more about Jill that we do about Mandy because she is very open in her aggression, in her distance from everybody she loves or cares for. From Jill’s perspective it is clear that sometimes love is not enough when you don’t the path ahead of you; or you don’t know how you can possibly change to adapt to your new circumstances or how to simply let go. Her narrative is full of suffocating grief, but also full of regret. It is hard not to sympathise with Jill, even when she is turning her back to love and tenderness, because she understands what she is missing, what she is doing and she feels for it. But Jill is simply trying to find her way, whatever it takes. I admired her greatly because it takes guts to turn your back to love; it takes guts to say “I am sorry”; it takes guts to move on. Mandy, on the other hand, was a mystery to start with – her narrative is full of a weird awkwardness, as though she lacked social skills, or something else that it’s hard to put a finger on. But that awkwardness, that lack of something becomes increasingly distressing when the story progresses and she reveals more of herself. Especially when it comes to her feelings about the baby’s father. Basically, every single line coming from Mandy’s mouth nearly broke my heart. The way that she parroted her mother’s life lessons as though they were the truth but she didn’t see them for what they were – sexist, belittling, wrong – but us, the readers do? The simple, straight-forward way that she observed Jill’s life, Robin’s mothering skills, their house? It felt like someone was squeezing my heart. From Mandy’s perspective, a little bit of love, as little as a friendly hug, is enough to change a person’s entire world. How to Save a Life is a thing of beauty. The blurb makes it sound like it’s going to be a run-of-the-mill contemporary YA but there is nothing even remotely ordinary or average about this novel: the story and the characters are raw, intense and dramatic. The writing is flawless because despite all this rawness and drama, the story never approaches the melodrama; the emotional state of each character is never cheapened by forced developments, instead feel real and natural. As real as the characters became to me: I felt for them even when I disagreed with their actions. I felt for them every step of the way, from page one till the very end. I can’t believe how awesome of a writer Sara Zarr is, I was basically staring at the pages in disbelief because there are many cool things about her writing from quotable lines to great romantic developments; from funny moments to moments where my heart broke into a million different pieces even as I knew those moments were coming. It is hard to express how good this novel is, down to every small detail. Plus it also has a plethora of great well-developed secondary characters including two boys who are both lovely in different ways and even as they were part of a love triangle neither was turned into a villain to make the choice easier – because ultimately choosing between two people you care for is not easy. The ending is perfect. It is basically ponies and rainbows and part of me thinks that it may well be too perfect. But at that point, it was the ending that the characters needed. Heck, it was the ending that I needed, the ending I hoped they would get. I can’t argue against that ending because it was perfect. Finally, Jill’s boyfriend Dylan (who is such a nice boy) has this whole rating system for everything in life based on the game of rock-paper-scissors: Whatever is the utmost in awesomeness, whatever is profoundly good, whatever is right and true, is rock. Because rock, though it can be beat (or “hidden,” as Dylan prefers to say) by paper, can never be destroyed. And How to Save a Life? Is totally rock.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Some books touch you without explaining why. How to Save a Life was one of those books for me. I suppose there is something about trudging through life’s curve balls that calls to me. As I’m sure it does to several others as well. It’s inspiring to see people pick themselves up, dust themselves off and find a new semblance of strength and happiness. How to Save a Life isn’t the most authentic book I’ve ever read. The ending is much too happy, the characters forgive too easily, and come around all Some books touch you without explaining why. How to Save a Life was one of those books for me. I suppose there is something about trudging through life’s curve balls that calls to me. As I’m sure it does to several others as well. It’s inspiring to see people pick themselves up, dust themselves off and find a new semblance of strength and happiness. How to Save a Life isn’t the most authentic book I’ve ever read. The ending is much too happy, the characters forgive too easily, and come around all too quickly. Nonetheless, it’s a touching story. More importantly, it contains two fascinating main characters. Love em, hate em, love to hate them, or plain ol relate, I’m sure there is at least one aspect to each of their personalities that will beckon you, or a portion of their life story that you will have experienced for yourself. This isn't just a story of a pregnant teen, or one mourning the loss of a parent. It's a story about finding a sense of belonging, listening to the truth of one's self and trusting your instincts. So if you are looking for a book to curl up with. One that won’t leave you sighing in exasperation, give this one a try. I don’t think you will regret it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sky

    "This is what made me want to cry. It felt bigger than only a cab driver, a stranger, leaving me in the snow. It felt personal. Abandonment. Knowing no one really cares if you stay or if you go or if you freeze to death in a train station parking lot or if you simply disappear. I've been knowing that a long time." I honestly don't know how to put this into words, how can one talk about a book like this? Everything made me tense and expectant and sad and happy and angry and I don't think I've eve "This is what made me want to cry. It felt bigger than only a cab driver, a stranger, leaving me in the snow. It felt personal. Abandonment. Knowing no one really cares if you stay or if you go or if you freeze to death in a train station parking lot or if you simply disappear. I've been knowing that a long time." I honestly don't know how to put this into words, how can one talk about a book like this? Everything made me tense and expectant and sad and happy and angry and I don't think I've ever read something like this, and I don't think I ever will. How to Save a Life follows two female characters who could be anything but the same, alternating between them back and forth. There's Jill, who's still grieving the loss of her beloved father and there's Maddy who's about to give up her baby to Jill's mother. They both have a distinct voice, I never lost track of them, which usually happens with books with multiple POVs. At times, you'd find Jill cruel and heartless; and at times, you'd find Maddy disturbing and peculiar; but that's what makes them unique. This book had so many beautiful elements; I can't even form a coherent list. Family, love, friendship, loyalty and everything ugly and beautiful you'd want to find in a book. Just read it.

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