Review: How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since her father died, Jill McSweeney has alienated her friends and withdrawn from life. Jill can see there’s something missing in her life, but she’s not entirely sure how to fill that void.

Mandy Kalinowski has grown up alienated, unwanted and alone. After connecting with a boy at the state fair, she winds up pregnant and wants to ensure her baby has what she never did. She advertises on-line that she wants to give up her baby for adoption…an ad to which Jill’s mother responds. Mandy runs away from her mother and her live-in boyfriend (who has an interest in Mandy as well) to live with Jill and her mother for the final few weeks of her pregnancy.

Told from alternating first-person points of view Sara Zarr’sHow to Save A Life flirts early with teenage angst overkill, but by about a quarter of the way into the novel settles into something more authentic, real and fascinatingly readable. Mandy and Jill may be exactly what the other needs in order to begin relating to the world, though both are extremely flawed characters. Zarr is able to make both characters sympathetic and unlike-able during the course of the story–many times within a few paragraphs.

And, of course, any book that has characters referencing that they like classic Doctor Who and taking off time from work for a marathon of one of my favorite shows, earns extra points in my book.

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