May 02, 2013

Review: How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Hey, everyone! I know, I know. Usually, I'd post a Feature&Follow Friday and I still haven't come up with the May books. I thought it might be nice to share a book review with you, as - you know - this is supposed to be a blog with reviews on it :) So, the meme has got to miss out today and I hope you enjoy this review!

How To Save a Life
by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life

Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could 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. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands 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, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems

Hardcover, 341 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Long Story Short:

This book convinces with every aspect. I loved the characters, the story, the premise, the plot, the feelings created in How To Save a Life, the ending, the setting, the message, everything! And I promise you will, too!

RATING: 3/3 Smarties


This book is unlike everything I've ever read - that's how much the story captured me.
Let's talk about the premise and the setup first. I have to say, it took me a while -almost a year - to finally pick this book up - from my shelf, that is, not the store!
One of the reasons for that was that I knew it was set in winter so I refused to read it in the summer and fall and kind of didn't get to it in winter and now it's spring again and I just decided to stop being the weird person that I am and get it read already.
Apart from me being weird, though, I also refused to read it, because I was convinced I wouldn't like it. Yup,  you heard right. Although every single person in the book blogging community made a fuss over it, I knew, just knew, I'd hate it. 
Because, you know, grief books? Not for me. I didn't like any of the ones I've read (The Sky is Everywhere, Between Here and Forever,...). And a story about a pregnant girl? As if I could relate!
And now - I can't believe how stupid I was to even think that! Seriously, I'm pretty sure I'm more like one of the main characters, Jill, who lost her father almost a year ago than like most of your average contemporary heroines. Jill was mean at times, true. However, she had her reasons and those  became clear not only by her behaviour, but especially as part of the book was narrated by her.
I liked how Zarr mixed Jill's grieving situation, her personality, her relationships and her dealing with the new situation when Mandy arrives all together and creates a character that is so unique. I was sometimes convinced that she stood next to me and that I knew her like I'd know my best friend.
Things were a bit more difficult with Mandy. Although I liked Mandy, her story was certainly interesting, I felt like Zarr had a completely different approach whenever the story was told from Mandy's point of view. Instead of going deeply into character development, she went into greater detail about Mandy's back story and family, her life before she moved in with Robin and Jill. 
However, I didn't miss any development with Mandy. It was nice to go from being in Jill's head and her contradicting thoughts to Mandy who was living in the moment a lot more. Basically, we got the plot through Mandy and the emotions through Jill.
I had a conflicted relationship to the side characters. Robin, for example, was one of the greatest moms I could imagine - if, you know, she appeared on the pages. She was often just busy at work which I found a bit sad, I'd liked to see more of her. Dylan, on the other hand, I wouldn't have bothered seeing less of. In the beginning, I really liked him, but towards the end, I found him rather annoying and I felt like he didn't really fit into the plot as well anymore. Things with Ravi were similar. Sometimes, he played this big role and I expected him to reveal this huge secret or whatever and then he kind of disappeared without reason.
Anyway, although the side characters did bore me sometimes, they didn't matter in my overall joy over this novel. Sara Zarr did an amazing job at bringing out emotions and teaching important life lessons without being overly dramatic or lecturing. After I finished the book, I seriously needed some time to acknowledge the fact, that the characters weren't actually real and that I'd have to let go of them eventually.
In the end, I can only say one thing: Read this book. Go pick it up, you'll love it!


  1. I really want to read this one. I have it on my kindle, but have been putting it off! So glad you liked it :) I know so many others who have as well! Awesome review :)

    Janina @ Synchonized Reading

  2. This book is so good. I love love loved and I'm so glad that you did, too! Mandy broke my heart, man I HATED her mother.


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