Friday, 5 October 2012

How To Save A Life

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Paperback, 411 pages

Published 1st September 2012 by Usborne

My shelves: 
arc-or-review, books-i-own, coming-up-next, contemporary, currently-reading, favourites, lasting-impression, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, really-good, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
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.

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.

Buy this book:

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. 


  1. Wow, wonderful review, Stephanie, I'm glad you loved this! I have it on my review pile myself but I just haven't gotten round to picking it up yet! I have heard lots of people saying Zarr's writing style is great, so I'm glad you agree. I think I might pick this one up next! :)

  2. I've heard such brilliant things about this book and its author. Now that it's available in the UK, I'll definitely be getting myself a copy. Wonderful review, Stephanie! :)

  3. I actually just picked this one up this week, so I am SO glad to hear you loved this one, Steph! I've only read one Sara Zarr book before, Story of a Girl, but I loved it and can't wait to start this one either. Yet another simply beautiful review! :D

  4. I'm glad you had the chance to read it!
    Sarah Zarr is one of those authors that make me very uncomfortable with their writing, she shakes me up, but in a good way. I can't say I enjoy her books per se but I always read them and they always make me feel something.

    Thanks for the review, I'm glad it lived up to your expectations.

  5. I sometimes 'enjoy' reading books filled with emotions. Sometimes, they feel a bit to heavy, but I will keep this one in mind when I'm in the mood for it. It does sound really good and I like the concept. The fact that the characters are so real is great :) Wonderful review, thanks for sharing. I'm glad you loved it so much!

  6. This sounds excellent, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. This book is definitely going on my TBR list.

  7. I love this kind of books, will buy this one of course! Good review!


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