Bethany's Reviews > How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
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's review
Oct 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary, family, angst, young-adult
Read in January, 2012

Jill's dad, her dad who she was just like, her dad who understood her better than anyone else, her dad who, yeah, okay, was her favorite parent, is dead. And both she and her mom have grown apart, without her dad to bring them together, but, her mom's gone crazy. Her 52-year old mother is determined to adopt a baby, and she's letting the teenage mother--who she's only ever communicated with by email--move in with them until the baby comes.

Mandy is eighteen, pregnant, and has absolutely no support. She's never met her dad, and her mom isn't--well, she's not what you'd call a good mom. So Mandy's on her own, no options, and then she reads a post on an adoption message board that touches her heart, and when she replies, when she makes demands, the woman gives in to every one of them. And yeah, maybe Mandy's not entirely honest with the lady, but she's got no options. She has to look out for herself.

So this is Jill's story, and Mandy's story, and it's also Jill's mother's story. There's a little bit of romance for Jill, but it's ultimately a story about family, and about hope, and healing. The story takes place in the details, in the letters that Mandy writes to a stranger, in the sharpness with which Jill treats her friends. And it's ultimately about the way that Jill can't get going and Mandy doesn't have a place to stay, and it's really beautiful. Good, subtle writing, amazingly rounded and realistic characters. (view spoiler)

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