Friday, December 23, 2011

How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life is a YA contemporary novel by Sara Zarr.

Jill MacSweeney has managed to sabotage all of her friendships, and even her longtime relationship, while grieving her father's death. Her Dad understood her, they were alike. Now, Jill feels so achingly alone. But then her Mom decides she wants to adopt a baby. Jill hates the idea of replacing her Dad with a new family member, and is frustrated with the way her Mom is going about it.

Mandy Kalinowski is pregnant. She arrives at the MacSweeney home a little further from her delivery date than they expect. She just couldn't stay at home any longer. She couldn't be around her Mom and her Mom's boyfriend one more second. So, she fudged the details a bit. Mrs. MacSweeney seemed like a nice person. She didn't mean to lie, she just knew that something had to be done. She's determined to give her baby a better life than she's had with a family that actually wants her. Like Mandy's never had...

How to Save a Life is extraordinary. It's told from both perspectives, switching narrators every chapter. The premise sounds simple enough, but it's when the plot line is straightforward that you can see just how amazing an author is - and Sara Zarr is amazing!

This novel brings grief to the table. In it, we experience the major life changes through the stark, raw, realistic voices of two young women in pain: Mandy and Jill. Each of them are awkward is social situations, but in polar opposite ways. Jill is grumpy and a bit selfish, but entirely relatable as she isolates herself in her utter sadness. Then we have Mandy who is talkative and sweet, but doesn't realize that she puts people off with her forwardness. She doesn't read signals well. Both of these girls intrigued me from the get-go, and Sara Zarr fleshed them out so thoroughly and believably, that by the end of How to Save a Life I was fully invested in them both. In fact, I was fully invested way before the end.

How to Save a Life feels personal, intimate, honest and messy - like life. Sara Zarr's characters talk like real teens, make choices like real teens, and are overall some of the most relatable characters in the YA world. Sara Zarr is becoming an author like Sarah Dessen for me, poetic and poignant and inspiring through the painful times of life.

I cannot stress enough how beautiful, sincere and absolutely touching How to Save a Life is! I mean, whoa - tear-jerker alert! This is a stunning must-read - I implore you to read it!!!

*I received a copy of How to Save a Life from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity no way influenced, or tried to influence, my opinion of the novel.

**By the way - Merry Christmas! Have a wonderful weekend full of presents and family fun - and hopefully many new books!!! :)

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