Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr.

Posted October 13, 2011 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Main Character: Jill and Mandy
Love Interest: Ravi and Dylan?
Series: None
Author: Website|Facebook|Twitter|Goodreads

Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends–everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted–to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

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

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up but whatever it was, I was glad that I read this. It’s a story about two girls trying to find some middle ground in their lives. One is grieving over the loss of her father and the other is trying to deal with not knowing what her future holds for her. They’re both scared young girls just trying to figure out how to keep going when their lives take a drastic change.

This story head hops between the two main characters, Jill and Mandy.

Jill lost her father in a car accident almost a year ago and she hasn’t gotten over it. She was extremely close with her Dad and she feels his loss each and every day. Her friends don’t understand and her boyfriend wants to but Jill is so independent that she keeps everyone at bay. Even her mother. Knowing what Jill is going through, I thought I would be able to connect with her more and feel her pain but there were times when it was hard to watch her go at it with everyone. She can’t seem to connect with anyone until a guy from school shows up at her work and starts helping her thaw out. She thinks her Mom is taking some crazy pills because she’s adopting a girl’s baby and Jill thinks it’s too soon to be jumping into something like this after her Dad died but Jill’s Mom is adamant about going through with this, much to Jill’s chagrin.

Then there’s Mandy. Mandy ran away from home because she lived with her emotional abusive mother and her Mom’s boyfriend who wasn’t a nice guy. Mandy’s eighteen and pregnant. She decides to give up her baby for adoption instead of having an abortion and she finds the perfect mother in Robin MacSweeney. With a vague plan in mind, Mandy takes off from Omaha and moves to Denver, Colorado to have her baby. She’s running away from the life that hasn’t made her happy and she’s trying to find her way in life and I really enjoyed getting to know Mandy. She was raised so different from Jill and yet she was better behaved than Jill was throughout the entire book. It was easy to connect with Mandy because she feels so overwhelmed throughout the entire book and lots of bad things happened to her but she didn’t let any of that stuff turn her into a raging bitch, which I appreciated.

I couldn’t say the same for Jill. Jill grew up, not wanting for anything and yet she was so bitter about every thing. Her bitterness toward a girl who did her no harm and the hurtful things she would say to those that are showing her kindness made me want to smack the crap out of her. When she would say things like, “You don’t get to talk about him,” it was hard to sympathize with her. As much as I didn’t really want her to be with Dylan, I had to give it to him for being so patient with Jill. She didn’t make it easy for anyone to be with her and yet Dylan was the constant presence in her life outside of her Mom. The way she treated Mandy in the beginning made me want to kick her in the stomach but Mandy handled it so much better than I ever could.

And that’s what made me like Mandy all the more. You could just feel how lost she was and how much she needed someone in her corner and to see Robin trying to be that person made me happy. The whole story comes together so nicely and from the beginning to the end, the words just flowed so well together and I couldn’t stop reading. I really enjoyed this book and am curious about reading more of Zarr’s work. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of contemporary YA fiction because you’ll get a few hours of entertainment out of this book, I promise.

..and that’s your scoop!

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3 responses to “Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr.

  1. Rowena

    @Alex: I’ve never read anything by her outside of this book so I can’t even think what other books she writes. Which books by her didn’t you like?

    @roro: Thanks for stopping by, I enjoyed this one so I hope you get to read it and enjoy it as much as I did.

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