Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr



Sara Zarr



Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends — everyone who wants to support her. 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.




*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. 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!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic 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

Originally read & reviewed on Goodreads on July 26, 2013

Author: Kristin (KC)

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