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How to Save a Life (the book, not the song) | Review

Heartbreakingly beautiful novel that must be read.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


Published October 18th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Pages: 341

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

Okay, I don’t even remember when I bought this book but it has been on my TBR (to be read) shelf. I randomly grabbed it before my family and I went on a trip and that was a very smart decision.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book. I didn’t reread the summary when I picked it up again so I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was that the book was based in Denver, Colorado and my family is vacationing in Colorado so I was basically like

This book is in dual point of view, which was done perfectly. Jill’s father died ten months ago and she was very close to her father so she is greatly distressed by his death. She pushes everyone away; her mother, boyfriend, and friends. Jill is definitely not coping well, and her mother, Robin, copes in a very different way.

Mandy comes off as naïve and… different. She is very socially awkward and does not have much common sense. She is also pregnant. Her mother is verbally abusive and not supportive so Mandy contacts Robin through a website in order for Robin to adopt Mandy’s child. Mandy comes to stay with the family a month before the child is born

The rest of the story follows the two girls as they deal with the situation in very different ways. Initially, Jill is very hostile towards Mandy. Mandy is just trying to deal with her conflicting thoughts about whether or not to keep the baby.

This book made me frustrated many times. Jill was one of the main problems. She was so rude to everyone that loved her. I understand why, but still!

This book was heartbreaking in many ways. Jill was incredibly close to her father so his death was a devastating blow. Mandy’s mother was terrible to her. She told Mandy that she regretted having Mandy more than anything she had ever done. Mandy also had some more serious problems that were revealed later in the book. I felt for both of the girls, so, basically

There’s a *bit* of a romance but it is completely a side note. Jill had a longtime boyfriend named Dylan but they have been having relationship problems for a long time, even more so after Jill’s father’s death. Jill meets a boy named Ravi and they slowly grow closer. I loved Ravi! So. Much.

Mandy is very conflicted when she starts to want to keep the baby. She is also growing a lot closer to Jill and Robin to the point where they are almost family. I thought the relationship between those three was amazing because it took a while, but Jill slowly accepted Mandy.

The ending leaves you wanting more. It’s closed enough that there most likely won’t be a sequel, but there is enough left for a sequel. So, Sara Zarr (From one Sarah to another Sara), I’m looking at you! SEQUEL PAH-LEASE! I am for sure reading more of Sara in the future.

Sara Zarr is coming to YALLFest, which is a young adult book festival in Charleston, South Carolina. I will most likely be going. I loved it last year! Can’t wait to see you, Sara!

4/5 stars. I would recommend this for ages 14 and up because of some of the tough subjects addressed in this book.

Read this book if you are looking for a book with substance that you will swallow up. I loooved it, so READ IT PLEASE!

Your favorite fangirl,


Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”


About Sarah Stevens

I am a teenage girl that reads lots of young adult books. I also watch Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Downton Abbey. I love YA realistic fiction and dystopian books.

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