Saturday 21 January 2012

Contemp YA Month: Guest Review of How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life – Sara Zarr

Pages: 341
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 18th October 2011

Other Titles by this Author: Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, Once Was Lost

From 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’d like to welcome the lovely Sammee from I Want to Read That and thank her for her fabulous guest review of Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Over to Sammee!

How To Save a Life is the second book by Sara Zarr that I have read.  Having read and really enjoyed Story of a Girl I had high expectations for this one and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

One of the things I really love about Zarr’s books is how character driven they are.  It’s all about the characters – what drives them, how they feel, what they want – that I can’t help but be completely engaged in the story.  In How to Save a life we get a dual narrative – which I love – and have the story told from Jill and Mandy’s point of view.

I fell in love with Jill immediately – she has that snarky vulnerability I just love – very independent but also so obviously crushed by her father’s death.  Mandy on the other hand was a character who grew on me – suddenly I found myself really loving her and I had no idea when it happened.  But it’s the combination of the two perspectives that really makes this work.  Through Mandy’s eyes, you see how incredibly lucky Jill is to have the family and friends she has, and Jill manages to make you believe that the ending is the only possible outcome.

I also loved Dylan - with all my heart. He’s just so great to both Jill and Mandy and it’s really nice to have a couple who may or may not be together but who are friends anyway.  They have a gentle way with each other even when they are arguing.  I though Ravi was an interesting character too – very different from Dylan but I understood Jill’s interest.

I think the story is a very honest portrayal of grief – coming to terms with what has happened and trying to move on with your life.  You may not be the same person you were before but it shows how you can move forward and how you can accept love back into your life.

Thanks so much, Sammee!



  1. I want it, I want it! I love Sara Zarr's writing! Fab review. Thank you very much, Sammee (and Sophie)!

  2. I've yet to read this one but I love Sara Zarr and all her past works. I know you'll likely venture and read her others novels as well but I still have to recommend Sweethearts. I cannot say enough good things about that book.

  3. Sara Zarr is absolutely one of my favourite authors writing at the moment! I've fallen in love HARD with each of her books I've read so far. Haven't yet had a chance to buy or read this one yet, but I shall be rectifying that pretty quickly! Great review Sammee :)


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