Monday, 10 December 2012

Review for How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Review for How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr 
Publisher: Usborne
Release Date: September 1st 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Families, Grief, Teen Pregnancy
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review

Goodreads Summary:
"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."

I’d read and loved Sara Zarr’s ‘Story of a Girl’ a few years back and so when I heard that her latest novel How to Save a Life was being published in the UK as her debut over here I was really excited for UK YA fans to discover what a talent this author is.

How to Save a Life is told alternately between Jill and Mandy two girls who couldn’t be more different. Jill is grieving the death of her father when her mom announces that she is going to adopt a baby – a life for a life. Mandy is young, vulnerable and pregnant and is planning on giving her baby to Jill’s mother. But through both death and new life the two girls have one thing in common- they’re both after a new beginning.

The topics of teen pregnancy and bereavement have both become really overused subjects in YA and what impressed me most about this novel is how Sara Zarr took two really overworked topics and created something totally fresh by combining them both together. Whilst this book deals with grief and teen pregnancy at its heart is a moral on the true meaning of family. I loved the direction that Zarr took this story and how unique and entirely hers she made these topics.

Jill and Mandy are two beautifully flawed characters. Jill I liked instantly and despite Mandy coming off as a bit of an odd ball at the beginning by the end she turned out to be my favourite character. You get to know more about the kind of life that Mandy’s had and the reasons behind giving up her baby as the book goes on and my heart definitely went out to the girl. Both characters have their faults and are far from perfect but ultimately I just wanted to reach inside the book, give them both a big hug, and help them through their problems.

I’m not usually a fan of love triangles in the slightest but in this book it was done really well. Jill has to choose between her long term boyfriend from her former life (before her dad died) or a guy who’s fallen in love with the new Jill post dad. I loved both guys but was rooting for one in particular. This love triangle was done beautifully and was relevant to Jill who is caught in a type of limbo in her life between the past and the present with her grief so it only made sense that would be reflected in her love life too.

How to Save a Life was a beautiful book. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending and the last few chapters brought on the tears. If you’re looking for a book with a lot of heart, endearing characters, and a hopeful message I’d fully recommend this novel.


  1. I really need to read this one. It's been out in the US for a while and I hope my library has it so I can request it. I'm glad you liked it! Really great review!

    1. Thanks Joni! I hope your library has it in and that you enjoy it :)

  2. I agree, I'm not a fan of love triangles either but it was done v. well in this book. *whispers* All in all it wasn't my favourite read of the year but I enjoyed this book all the same. :)

  3. Such a beautiful review Jess! This was my first book by Sara Zarr and she certainly has me wanting to pick up more books by her asap. She is one heck of a talented author, the way she managed to write this poignant story and I agree the love triangle didn't bother me too much in this book either! :)

    1. Thanks Jas! You definitely have to check out Story of a Girl I loved it just as much as this one :)

  4. Loved this book! Glad you did as well :) I love Sara Zarr's stories so much.

    1. Me too she writes realism so well! Glad you loved this too :)


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