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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How to Save a Life (edition 2012)

by Sara Zarr

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5235619,336 (4.04)21
Title:How to Save a Life
Authors:Sara Zarr
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read November 2012, Young Adult

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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


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Jill is still grieving over the loss of her father when her mother decides she wants to adopt a baby. Without involving lawyers or social workers. Jill feels like she’s the only one who thinks this is a bad idea, but her mother doesn’t listen. In moves Mandy, the pregnant teenager Jill’s mom found online. As they begin to bond, Jill feels left out in all social aspects of her life, until she lets in someone from her past. This book was really great, and I look forward to reading more by Zarr. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
I would probably give this 3.5 stars overall. I really liked the narration of the audiobook by both narrators. The distinct narrative voices helped to show how different the two girls really were.

I particularly liked Jill's sarcastic sense of humor and her hard shell that hid a heart of gold. I liked her instantly, and that didn't really change throughout the course of the novel. I also liked her relationships with both Dylan and Ravi, and seeing how they played out.

Mandy had to grow on me a little because, like Jill, I wasn't sure what she was hiding all of the time, but I didn't trust her. Over time, though, I warmed up to her. I liked watching her relationship with Jill grow, and even though she sometimes infuriated me with the choices she made, I could understand why she made them.

Overall, I really liked the realism in the book. The characters seemed real and acted in ways that were very realistic for their situations. None of them were perfect, and their flaws are what ultimately brought them together. I'd definitely like to read more of Sara Zarr. ( )
  klack128 | Oct 11, 2015 |
Plot: To be honest, I wasn’t really sure about this one. The synopsis felt too 16 & Pregnant to me and I was expecting something along those lines. But that is definitely not what I found. This is a story of two girls, both lost and confused who are searching for something they didn’t even realize they wanted or needed. It was a story about family, how blood relation doesn’t really matter, as long as you are willing to be there for each other. There aren’t any major plot twists, it isn’t action packed and it isn’t even all that unique, but it is still a great book. Only after reading it and sitting down to write this review, did I notice that the ending was totally and completely predictable, but this didn’t take anything away from the novel because it was exactly what I hoped would happen. There was an annoying cliffhanger at the very, very end though, but I say “annoying” only because I really wanted to know what happened next and then, suddenly, the book was over. I just hope this means a sequel might be coming? Who knows...

Characters: This was very strange for me, but I connected with both Jill and Mandy despite how different they were. It was a little odd because I can’t remember the last time I agreed so much with a characters inner thoughts. I even caught myself nodding along as I was reading a few times, thinking: “That is so me. Thank God I’m not the only one”. Jill is moody, angry and bitter which is completely understandable behavior after losing a parent, especially considering the relationship they had. Mandy was a little more difficult to understand. She is very naive, very lost, but very well-intentioned. She is only trying to do what she thinks is best for everyone, even if she has no idea what her future will be once it is all done. The alternating viewpoints offered more of the characters personality through implication rather than outright telling. The fact that the characters were so relatable is probably the main reason why I liked this book so much.

Cover: I like the cover and it does show how lost Mandy is, which is a key part of the story, but it isn’t the only one and I think they could have designed something that tied in with the book better. It is still really cute though.

Overall Impression: This is the first time I am reading a novel by Sara Zarr, but it will definitely not be the last. I hope a sequel is in the works! ( )
  joanab951 | May 21, 2015 |
Beautifully written, especially in terms of characterization and voice. In the hands of a less author I think I would have grown frustrated by several of the characters but Zarr makes me love them in spite of (sometimes even because of) their flaws. This book compelled me to keep reading, wanting not just to know "how it ends" but how these characters will come together (or not) and grow (or not).
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I saw it a few years ago in a bookstore and thought it looked really good. I added it to the list of books that I should read, and when I saw it in the library a few days ago, I picked it up and took it home. Now, a part of me wished that I had left it on the shelf. It wasn't that it was exceptionally bad, it just wasn't exceptionally good.
My biggest complaint is the characters. I disliked both the main characters quite a lot, actually. I found myself liking the two boys in the story far more than I liked either of the girls. I'm not the kind of person who dislikes a character just because they have flaws, I believe that it makes them more realistic, but these characters had flaws that I just couldn't overlook. I think the author meant for some of Mandy's quirks to be endearing, but I just found them creepy. I felt like at times, Jill was unrealistic. I didn't find either of the characters likable, and while I acknowledge that it isn't a requirement for the main characters to be likable, I believe that they were meant to be liked in this book, and the author failed to make me even tolerate them. Plus, while there was some character development, I felt like there wasn't enough from this kind of book.
I don't know where I stand as far as the plot is concerned. It took a little while for me to get into it, but after maybe fifty to seventy five pages, I did find the plot quite compelling. However, I don't really understand what the purpose of the book was, and I don't feel like the plot really went anywhere. I couldn't identify a real conflict, though I see what might be considered as the climax.
While this book wasn't terrible, it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. Maybe my high expectations made the actual book pale in comparison, but I didn't really find it that good. I wouldn't call it a waste of my time or anything, because I think something can be gained from reading anything, even if it's of poor quality, but it took me longer than normal to finish. It could just be that this book just didn't resonate with me. It's one of those books that I would suggest to my friends, but if they wanted to read it, I wouldn't stop them.
Two out of Five Stars
If you liked this review, you can find more cool stuff like it here: http://themessengerreviews.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-save-life.html ( )
  TheMessengerReviews | Nov 23, 2014 |
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I am writing in response to your Love Grows post from Christmas Day.
I have no concrete plans for seeing the world and don't know how I'd come up with them without his advice, and when I picture myself moving out, it doesn't feel like a bold adventure. It feels like running away. Because all I can see is the part where I leave, not the part where I arrive.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316036064, Hardcover)

Author One-on-One: Jenny Han Interviews Sara Zarr
Jenny Han

Author Jenny Han recently sat down with Sara Zarr to discuss her latest novel, How to Save a Life.

Jenny Han: In my humble opinion, this is the best book you’ve written thus far. I loved it. I know we authors don’t like to play favorites with our book babies, but do you feel that way, too?

Sara Zarr: Thanks, Jenny! I have to admit‚ I do have extra-warm feelings for this book. Some of that is because the writing of it felt so good, relative to the experience of writing my other books. Still hard work, certainly, but enjoyable hard work. I don’t have to tell you that not every book feels that way. Also, I had a very definite sense while writing it that I was undergoing some kind of change and growth as a writer, and that felt good. I’m proud of it as a work, and it will also always symbolize, to me, that period of exciting change and growth.

Han: Did you do any kind of research on adoption?

Zarr: I did. I poked around adoption websites and message boards, and I had to look up some information on laws in the states where the story takes place. The specific circumstances under which Jill’s mom and Mandy find each other has a whiff of “gray market” about it, which didn’t lend itself to research. So I had to imagine and assume it would be entirely possible, as I know people will go to great lengths and push boundaries in the process of creating a family.

Han: Did you plan all along to tell the story from both Mandy’s and Jill’s perspectives?

Sara Zarr

Zarr: When I first started the book, it was Jill’s story. But as soon as I finished Jill’s first chapter, in which she and her mother are waiting for the train that’s bringing Mandy to them, I knew that I wanted to be on that train, too. I wanted to know what brought Mandy to that moment of leaving home, and what she’d think of her new life in Denver and of Jill.

Han: Mandy moved me very much. There is an innocence to her, but also a sharpness, a manipulativeness. She reminded me of an unwanted puppy that’s thrown into a lake but claws its way back to the surface. Where did you get your inspiration for Mandy?

Zarr: That’s a great description and metaphor for Mandy. She came to me slowly. I know this sounds like one of those weirdo writer things—I just sort of got on the train with her and watched. It took me quite a bit longer to figure her out than it took me to know Jill. At first Mandy was more manipulative, less innocent. I saw her as a type, or as a character. Which, as you know, is not the best way to approach the people we’re creating, but sometimes that’s where you have to start. As her story came to me in pieces, I could see how her experience had made her both strong and vulnerable, and that anything she did that seemed manipulative was simply out of this will to survive that she’d been honing since birth.

Han: Is there one character you related to most deeply?

Zarr: I think anyone who knows me well will recognize where a lot of Jill’s personality comes from. Jill is a lot like me when—well, I hate to say “when I’m at my worst,” because I don’t think that’s fair to Jill. Let’s just say that I understand Jill and why she sometimes treats people who care about her in the shabby way that she does. That said, I also deeply felt Mandy’s longing for safety, for home, for some kind of faith that things are going to be okay. Both Mandy and Jill want those things. Probably everyone does.

Han: What's next for you after this?

Zarr: I’m working on a new novel right now. All I can say is that it’s my usual—contemporary realism—and that the process is challenging me in every possible way. I hope in a year to be able to say that I met those challenges successfully!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:16 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Told from their own viewpoints, seventeen-year-old Jill, in grief over the loss of her father, and Mandy, nearly nineteen, are thrown together when Jill's mother agrees to adopt Mandy's unborn child but nothing turns out as they had anticipated.

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