Clay's Reviews > How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
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's review
Jun 21, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: young-adult, young-adult-or-adult
Read from October 05 to 13, 2011

People who know me know I don't give five stars easily, so that I've given three books five stars this week might lead some to suspect I'm going soft. Not so. It's just that the crop of recent books I've read have been particularly strong, superbly imagined and written. I say: Keep 'em coming.

Sara Zarr's How To Save a Life, may be my favorite Zarr so far. A year after her dad's sudden death, 18YO Jill is still raw, angry and bitter with unprocessed grief, pushing everyone away, becoming a stranger even to herself. Her mother, airy-fairy-ish Robin, with grief as unresolved as her daughter's, seems to have gone over a different edge: she contacts an unwed and pregnant stranger, 18YO Mandy, online and decides to adopt Mandy's unborn child.

The story is told in two voices, Jill's and Mandy's, as Mandy first makes her way by train to Robin before the birth, then moves in with Robin and Jill. As with all of Zarr's books, a profound human struggle ensues and all is not as it first appears. Zarr's ability to open our eyes, make us cringe, say: God, how can she do that? Be so stupid? Naive? Knee-jerk? (insert other human frailty here)? But a second later she makes us admit: I'm like that. I've made that mistake, done that same stupid/wrong/hurtful thing. And still (and perhaps that's why), we love them, faults and all.

Highly recommended.

Lovely "To Save a Life" playlist on Largehearted Boy:
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