The Compulsive Reader: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

When Jill MacSweeny's mother decides to adopt a baby less than a year after her father's death, Jill is completely against the idea, and against Mandy Kalinowski, the teenager whose baby she wants to adopt. But for Mandy, Mrs. MacSweeny is everything she could want for her baby. Just before delivery, Mandy comes to Denver to meet Jill and her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the birth, both girls must work past their differences and past hurts to somehow accept each other, and the unborn baby, despite an uncertain future.

How to Save a Life is a heartbreaking, complicated novel about choices, grief, and redemption. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, allowing the reader to really delve into the minds of the new two narrators. Zarr does an excellent job at portraying these two girls—Jill and Mandy are very different on the surface, from looks to personalities, but both grapple with family and relationship issues. Jill has always had a happy family, but as a result of the grief she is experiencing, she's closed off and hurt, trying to make sense of life with a new fear she carries with her at all times. Mandy's home life has never been good, but she knows the kind of life that she wants for her baby, and the type that she wants for herself, but she struggles with making the right choices for herself and her unborn child. The confusion that both girls feel oftentimes propels them into doing things that they regret.

Another great thing about this book is the many excellent supporting characters. To name a few memorable ones, there’s Jill's mom, who has her own issues and stress, but a very large heart and courage to face the future. There is Jill's boyfriend, who is fascinated by Mandy and her situation, and willing to help her, and Jill's "co-worker" Ravi, who is cute and funny and the first person to get through to Jill since her father's death. This book is all about relationships—severing the old, poisonous ones, opening yourself up, and forging new ones. There's plenty of drama in this novel, and the rich, realistic characters will take up residence in your thoughts long after the final, hopeful page. How to Save a Life is a heartfelt novel about family, grief and healing, losing and gaining.

Cover Comments: I love the snow, the benches, and the blonde girl sitting on one--just like Mandy in the book. The font of the title is also pretty cool. An awesome cover!

This one will be available October 18th, 2011!

ARC picked up at BEA!

Win this book all this month! Click here for more info!


The book girl said...

I just LOVED this book-- one of my favs this year, actually. I also thought the author developed some great supporting characters, along with her two brillant main ones:)

Alex (A Girl, Books, OtherThings) said...

Thanks for the review, I can't wait to read this book.

I'm not exactly a fan of Zarr's but I find her books irresistible and uncomfortable and hard to put down.

I never "like" them but I can't forget them either. They just kind of punch me. :P


I know it might not sound flattering but I do mean it as a complement.

Rowena said...

I enjoyed this book, Jill was a bit much to take at times but I had to let slide for a bit because she was grieving. But still, there were times when I wanted to smack some sense into Jill.

I really enjoyed getting to know Mandy and Jill's Mom.

sunnynikki said...

The cover on this is interesting. It makes me wonder about the second set of footprints and the empty bench.
I'll probably pick this up to read, it seems interesting enough, never read anything of hers before.

Laurie C said...

I got this book as an ARC too, but you did much better getting your review posted in a timely manner! I just wanted to let you know I linked to your review in my post today.

Hyacinth Marius said...

This is a really good book! It is wonderfully written. A MUST READ!!!! Would make a great gift for anyone who likes to read books.
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