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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Title: How to Save a Life
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a young adult book fan.
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like issue centric stories.
What's the Story?:

From "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."

My Two Cents:

This book is told from two points of view. One is Jill, a teenager who is still reeling from her beloved father's death and her mom's sort of crazy idea that she wants to adopt a new baby. The other point of view is Mandy, a midwestern girl struggling with a bad home life and being pregnant as a teenager.

Both characters really grow and change throughout the book, which I liked. Jill and Mandy both have some pretty unlikable traits. Mandy is naive and thinks that the only way to take care of yourself is to be vulnerable and almost coerce people into taking care of you by sometimes lying. Mandy gets really annoying in the beginning of the book. Her mother has taught her that if she wants anything out of life, she needs to make herself attractive to men to take care of her. Mandy is not a stupid person so it seemed a little crazy to me that she would keep that idea in her head for so long especially seeing the position that both she and her mother were in. I would think seeing people in those situations would make you realize that you can and should take care of yourself and I wish Mandy would have .

Jill is going through a lot but doesn't seem to see the forest for the trees. She pushes everyone around her away and seems to be fighting with herself to let anyone back in her life. They grow and definitely become more likable as the book goes on. I love when an author is really able to write a good character transformation, which is exactly what happens in this book.

I also really liked the setting. Most of the book takes place in Denver, CO, a place that is near and dear to my heart as my parents both came from Colorado and much of my family still lives out there. It's a place that I love to visit. Zarr incorporates some great Denver scenes including a trip to Casa Bonita, a real-life restaurant in Denver that is probably one of the cheesiest restaurants on earth (but it is so much fun and just one of those things you have to sit back and enjoy for what it is).

This book covers a heavy topic but I thought Zarr did a really good job showing the effects that it had on the different characters in the story. And I loved, loved, loved the ending, which I'm not going to tell anything about because I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Anyhow, this is a great book for YA lovers.


  1. I just love Sara Zarr. I think she is so good at capturing the thoughts of young girls. Even with how annoying Mandy was in the beginning, it sounded very real to me!

    1. This is actually the first book that I've read by Zarr!

  2. Thanks for the review! I'd really like to read this one. Glad that you enjoyed. :)


  3. This looks like an interesting book. I've read all of Sara Zarr's books but this one, so I'll have to check it out.

    1. This is the first of Zarr's books that I've read but I want to read more. Any recommendations?

    2. I think my favorite by her would have to be Once Was Lost. Story of a Girl was also really good, I read it in one sitting at a bookstore a few years ago.

    3. Awesome! I'll have to look for those ones!

  4. I really really want to read this one - it's topped a lot of "Best of 2011" lists. Glad to see that you liked it too!


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