Book Thoughts: How to Save A Life by Sara Zarr

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?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

I have heard many people praise Sarah Zarr’s works- I now know why. Teenage pregnancy novels are not my cup of tea; however the first few chapters of How to Save a Life drew me in. Overall, this novel is amazing.

Zarr does a wonderful job of writing in two distinct voices. The two protagonists, Jill and Mandy, are very different from each other and I was able to identify their differences instantly through the mood of each chapter. Even though I’m not similar to either of the girls I was able to empathize and sympathize with them. I found that sharing feelings with them brought me closer to the story; It’s always nice to know you’re not the only who feels that way even if the characters are fictional.

At the end of the novel I thought one of the two girls developed much more than the other one. At first I thought that hindered the novel; now I think it actually makes it better. In life, people grow at different rates. Why should characters be any different?

This novel focuses on family and friendly love instead of romance. I like that. I know the foundation of my life is my family and friends. I don’t think enough books stress on that so this book was a nice surprise. How to Save A Life also expressed some things I don’t ever hear about such as a teen guy talking about having kids. It’s nice to see topics I never see become more prominent in YA.

The simplicity of the language in this book is captivating. Zarr’s empathetic diction makes the book that much more realistic. I recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a good read.


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