How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Paperback, 411 pages
Published 1st September 2012 by Usborne
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.
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn both how to hold on and how to let go, finding that nothing is as easy - or as difficult - as it seems.
Heart-achingly beautiful, moving and funny, How to Save a Life has been named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2011 and an American Library Assocation 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults.
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My thanks go to Usborne for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
How to Save a Life is one of those books that I was desperate to read as soon as I heard about it. Unfortunately, as it's not a British book, I found it difficult to obtain a copy of it here in the UK for quite some time - you can imagine my happiness when I heard that Usborne had decided to publish it! I just had to get a copy as soon as possible, and I am so glad that I did!
How to Save a Life is actually quite a simple idea. Firstly, we are introduced to Jill who has lost her father due to a car accident and her mother has just announced that she's going to adopt a baby - so from the start, you can tell that her life is anything but simple! Secondly, we're introduced to Mandy - a troubled girl who is determined to make sure her child does not have the life that she has had - the girl who is planning to give her baby to Jill's mother. It is a quite simple yet effective idea. The story doesn't simply focus on the whole adoption idea, but rather on the day to day living and the everyday emotional problems of both Jill and Mandy and how their pasts have affected them. Interactions and relationships with supporting characters helped this development. There are romantic relationships formed in the story which are in the background but also contribute well to the story and the characters.
The plot to this book is chock-full of emotion. However, even without such a fantastically crafted story behind it, I think that the characters would've held this story up by themselves. I don't want to disregard the plot as it is full of issues and questions, but the depth of this novel goes way beneath the storyline. For me, it was the characters who really shone through in this novel. They were all so vivid and strong, so... real. I had read many positive reviews for this book, but nothing really prepared me for these characters or this writing. It is impossible to put into words - there is something so visceral about the emotions and thoughts of both Jill and Mandy. Though I have never been in a similar position to either of the characters, I felt as though I could relate and connect with them. Though at the beginning I didn't really like either character, I felt so understanding of them both, even if I didn't agree with some of their actions.
There is not much I can say to justify the quality of this novel - I think it is a book that you really need to read for yourself. It is so clear that Zarr is extremely talented, her writing flows so well - How to Save a Life is effortless to read, it is captivating and it really sucks you in. This is one of the best books I have read, and I don't say that a lot! I can't wait to read some more of Sara Zarr's work.