Author: Sara Zarr (Twitter, Facebook)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: October 18, 2011
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to 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. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?
Mandy Kalinowski knows 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, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?
Jill’s life was shattered by the untimely death of her father, and the pieces don’t seem to fit together anymore. She’s lost and alone, and she’s reeling. Jill can’t bear to let others in to see her pain, but it’s causing her world to collapse around her. When her mother decided to adopt a baby, Jill is certain her mother’s trying to fill the void in the family, and she can’t take it. Mandy, on the other hand, is lost for another reason. She wasn’t loved as a child, nor was she wanted. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she knew her baby deserved more. Jill and Mandy’s lives are tunneling along the same collision course that could either end well, or it could destroy all parties involved forever.
To be honest, I’ve never read a single title by Sara Zarr before in my life, yet here was the golden opportunity with How to Save a Life. Hailed as a truthful and emotional book, I knew it had potential to satiate my appetite for drama-filled and tension-wrought stories and, needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. How to Save a Life opens up the hearts of two girls coping with life, trauma and the emotional rollercoasters that ensue and lets them bleed and spill onto the pages. The prose is real and stark in a way that creates a raw, painful beauty, and Sara Zarr approaches How to Save a Life with utter sincerity and grapples with the nature of love, life and learning to trust others in a world where it can be so entirely overrated. Beautiful and painful, How to Save a Life is a beacon of literary honesty in a world of contemporary fiction.
Jill was such a brutally honest character. Her pain was tangible, and her desperate need for closure was completely sincere, but there was a vulnerability to her despair that made her accessible to the reader in How to Save a Life. Likewise, Mandy was looking for a chance at redemption from the childhood she endured. Her blatant and blind faith in another human being was beautiful and tragic at the same time. She was wary of her abilities to parent a child, and Jill was equally cautious of Mandy’s intentions with the baby. How to Save a Life was a maze of emotion and pain, but the true beauty of the story was in the unflinching and unfailingly honest approach to human nature. Mandy and Jill couldn’t have been more different, but when their lives came together in the story, there were intersections that resonated through both their voices. Speaking of which, How to Save a Life deftly balanced two very unique character voices with ease, providing the reader with a dual perspective of a tragically beautiful story. The confusion and undercurrent of true human emotion and the realistic look into the chaos of the teenage mind only served to heighten and improve the already wonderful story.
All in all, How to Save a Life is a gorgeous, heartfelt read that I’m certain to share with many of my friends and fellow readers, alike. If you enjoy a human approach and a true portrayal of raw human emotion, this is the book for you. I give it a 4.5 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all YA fans, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.