“How to Save a Life”—A Book Review

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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr was a very absorbing read. This tale was very different from the stuff that I normally read, so I kind of surprised myself by how much I enjoyed it.

Jill hasn’t been the same since her dad passed away, and now her mom has decided to adopt a baby. But as if that idea, in and of itself, isn’t hard enough, it’s not a typical adoption. Mandy, the young pregnant girl wants to live with the family before she gives birth. Weird as it sounds, Jill’s mom agrees to Mandy’s terms. And so Mandy comes to live with Jill and her mom in the months leading up to the birth of the baby.

This book is told in alternate narratives from Jill and Mandy’s points of view. It was very intriguing hearing the dramatic difference in the voices of these two teens, even though they are roughly the same age. While Jill is very closed off and pissed at the world, damaging any relationship that comes her way, Mandy is extremely naïve and almost childlike. Along the way you find out that Mandy has not had a very pleasant childhood, being brought up by a mother that has made it clear all of her life that she never wanted a child. And while Mandy was exposed to some pretty harsh truths at a very young age, her intellectual growth seems to be stuck somewhere around middle school.

Jill doesn’t trust Mandy, and is a total bitch to her from the start. Mandy is a compulsive liar, feeling like she has to keep the truth of herself and her past hidden. Mandy feels that if Jill’s mom knows the truth, she won’t go through with the adoption, and Mandy wants her baby to have a good life and a good mom, but the reality is…Mandy really just needs a mom herself. And Mandy not only lies to Jill’s mom…she seems to lie to everyone in order to receive attention, and struggles with the boundaries of real and fantasized relationships.

I’m telling you, even though Mandy seems like a complete dumbass and I just wanted to reach through the pages and strangle her most of the time, I could not put this book down. The dynamics between the characters were simply riveting. And of course, the more you read on, the more the story pulls you in. Will these girls learn how to let go and when to hold on?

I give this book four out of five stars. Definitely worth the read.

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