Friday 21 September 2012

How to Save a Life - Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life – Sara Zarr

Pages: 411
Publisher: Osborne
Release Date: 1st September
Edition: UK proof, review copy

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

Everyone knows how to who they are...find their place. But I’m still waiting.

Jill’s life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell. She’s going to adopt a baby.

Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes.

Heart-achingly beautiful, How to Save a Life is about finding love, truth and your place in the world...all where you least expect it.

I adored Sara’s debut Story of a Girl, but I wasn’t as taken with Sweethearts, so I really didn't know how I’d feel about How to Save a Life but decided to give a go nonetheless. Boy, am I glad I did!

Sara Zarr gives us both sides of the story with a narrative split between Mandy and Jill. I immediately took to angry, bitter and heavily grieving Jill, but it took me a while to warm to the innocent and slightly odd Mandy. There was something about her that I didn't trust; sometimes her narration even felt unreliable in that she’d perhaps deluded herself into believing certain things. There wasn’t a trace of that mistrust with Jill although she too, of course, deluded herself frequently. Mandy struck me as slightly creepy at first, but as I learnt more about her background and her internal journey, I grew from wariness to sympathy to wanting to look after her much in the same way as Jill did.

In the way of action and plot, not a lot happened in How to Save a Life. After reading so many dystopias and plot-driven novels this year, this book was a complete treat. I love character orientated novels when they are done well which this most definitely was! As cheesy as it is, Jill and Mandy grew and developed so much over the course of the novel. With the help of a few characters, they grew to accept that they could change their situations and opened up to new lives. It was rather heart-warming. Mandy had Robin and eventually Jill, and Jill, well, I’m not going to ruin that for you!

How to Save a Life developed in a way that I was really not expecting. It was a turn around on the options for the ending that was presented throughout the novel and I was surprised. But in reflection, I don't think it could have ended any other way with the themes that were present in How to Save a Life and the relationships and attachments that formed. It was the perfect, and only, ending.

I loved How to Save a Life and I hope that the rest of Sara Zarr’s novels will be published over here so lots more readers are introduced to such awesome contemporary YA.

Thank you to Osborne for providing me with a review copy.



  1. Every time I read a review of this book, I feel bad that I didn't really like it. On another note, this is the best written review I have read of How To Save A Life.

  2. I love Sara Zarr, and I really do hope that more by her is published in the UK!

  3. Great review, sounds like a really good book, refreshing after so many zombies and end-of-the-world stuff!

  4. This sounds so good - I really want to read it! Thank you for the great review.

  5. I love How To Save a Life, but didn't love it as much as I did Sweethearts, haha! Awesome review ;)

  6. The book is hard at times; Mandy has been through some truly terrible situations. And while they're awful, they show how strong a character she is, despite not seeming like one at first. And of course there's a love story, which is careful and sweet and perfect.

    I highly recommend Zarr's book; it's full of hope, family and love.
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