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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
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How to Save a Life (edition 2011)

by Sara Zarr

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446None23,668 (4.08)18
Member:mckait
Title:How to Save a Life
Authors:Sara Zarr
Info:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2011), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
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How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
3.5/5
I enjoyed this book, but I did find that at times it didn't really hold my interest. I really liked the dual narration though, that was interesting and I'll talk more about why I specifically liked it in this book on my blog.

Overall I liked it and I'm pleased that I read it, but I probably wouldn't read it again. ( )
  bookish92 | Mar 20, 2014 |
Mandy is 18 and pregnant either through a one night stand or through her mother's abusive boyfriend. Jill is 17 and her dad died, Mac, in an auto accident a few months earlier. Her mother Robin and Mac had talked about adopting a child and now that Mac is gone, Robin is following through with an open adoption.

Robin and Mandy meet through a website and agree. With 8 weeks left to term, Mandy travels from Nebraska to Colorado to live with Robin until the baby arrives. She's not sure of her plans afterward.

How to Save a Life is an interesting contrast of characters. Mandy, who comes from a poor and abusive family, isn't the smartest kid in the world, book smart at least, but she has moxie to leave her home unannounced and try to start a new life. Jill, a year younger, is still mourning her father and in her grief has alienated her friends, her mother to some extent and her boyfriend. Robin and Jill come from a middle class, urban background and Robin is a successful business woman.

The strength of this book is in the contrast of the three women. It got off to a slow start but ended up an interested read. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Nov 7, 2013 |
Predictable but good story. I sometimes felt annoyed at both main characters, but I could understand where they were coming from. ( )
  amyolivia | Oct 25, 2013 |
Review from ARC from publisher.

This was really awesome. I'm actually sad that it took me so long to get around to reading it, even after everyone was raving about it. ( )
  kcarrigan | Aug 26, 2013 |
Sara Zarr is fast becoming one of my most favorite authors.

Where [a:E. Lockhart|173491|E. Lockhart|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1267209040p2/173491.jpg](I hate comparing authors by the way) is also writing realistic contemporary young adult fiction but doing it in a humorous light-hearted way, Zarr approaches darker topics and writes in a very emotionally compelling way. I love both Zarr and Lockhart and despite that they are both writing in the same "genre" it is hard to imagine they are actually writing in the same genre. If that makes any sense .... but both authors bring such a realistic flavor and almost tangible reality to their books that it does seem they are contempories of each other.

How To Save a Life centers around three women -- a high school daughter (Jill), a widowed mother, and a pregnant high school drop out (Mandy) hoping to give her baby up for adoption to the widowed mother. Jill's father recently passed away suddenly and his loss has left a huge hole in her life and her mother's life. Jill is hurting, has alienated her friends and boyfriend and is maybe interested in a different boy. In contrast, Mandy has been mistreated and neglected by her mother and others all of her life. Mandy has a dark secret and is running from her mother. Each woman is struggling and suffering, but the girl in this story that truly needs saving is Mandy.

The story begins with Jill judging Mandy and hating her. She sees what she wants to see, she judges Mandy for being less educated and seemingly simple. Mandy is desperate to fit in, to be wanted but is convinced she is unwanted. She is struggling with her love for her unborn baby and her belief that she will be a useless mother.

How to Save a Life had me crying at points. It had me unable to turn off the audio book (the narration is great). It had me pondering the effect that parents have on their children even with the smallest interactions. It had me thankful for my bed, my couch, the food in my refrigerator and my mother. We see Mandy's amazement at a leather couch, a soft clean bed, and a refrigerator full of food. And it had me wondering -- how I can help kids who are abused and neglected in the way that Mandy was.

But don't worry, I think if you don't want to be emotionally affected this is still just a good story to listen to or read. If you want the deeper message, it is there. Zarr is great at exploring issues of sexuality and teens. I cannot wait to read her other books.

( )
  ReginaR | Aug 3, 2013 |
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I am writing in response to your Love Grows post from Christmas Day.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:35 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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