Book: How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr
Summary: Jill is still trying to deal with her father’s death when her mother, Robin, announces that Mandy, a pregnant 18-year old, will be moving in with them because Robin will be adopting her baby. Alternating between Jill and Mandy’s point of view, How To Save A Life tells the story of how to build a new family after life has torn you apart.
Characters: I love these characters, but please forgive me if I spell their names wrong, because I listened to the audio version. They are all so emotionally messed up, that I was able to immediately connect with them. Jill is grieving and angry. Mandy has been abused her her whole life and is scared and confused. They each have a distinct voice that gives a unique perspective on the same story.
The other characters are easy to like, too. Jill’s mom, Robin, is the kind of person I hope really exists, the kind of person I hope I am and can be. Mandy’s “family” is horrifying, but realistically so. Her memories of her mom and Kent broke me apart inside.
RJ/Ravi is probably my favorite character besides Robin, Mandy, and Jill. Jill beating him up as the meet cute? Yes, please. I should also say something about Dylan, but I’m tired of repeating myself by saying how much I liked all the characters, so Dylan is a real teenage guy… and I liked him (sorry).
Plot/Pacing/Structure: The book starts out at the perfect spot–Mandy’s arrival in Denver to stay with Jill and Robin until the baby is born. We watch these two girls learn to interact and slowly get each of their back stories. I always wanted to know more and I found myself hoping for a happy ending from very early on in the book.
Moments I Loved: I loved when Jill answered the phone and it was Mandy’s mother. I hate Mandy’s mother, but it was great for Jill to get a glimpse into Mandy’s past. Also, the end was PERFECT… maybe naively optimistic, but not in a bad way. In a way that gave me hope and made me wish I wasn’t so jaded. It is the only way it could have ended that would leave me completely satisfied.
WTF Moments: Jill throws Mandy a birthday party, but gives her baby gifts for presents. Yes, she gave baby gifts to a girl who is giving up her baby. I was groaning as she was shopping and pleading with her to go buy something for Mandy and not the baby. The moment was perfect within the story and does a good job of showing where Jill’s head is at, but it was also incredibly frustrating because, come on, Jill, this is a terrible idea!
Narrators: At first, I didn’t like the girl who narrated Mandy’s part, but it didn’t take long for me to think she was perfect. I thought she sounded too young, but it ended up being perfect, because even though Mandy is pregnant and terrible things have happened to her, she is incredibly naive and sheltered. Jill’s part is gruffer and captures the pain and vulnerability underneath the hard exterior that Jill has created for herself since the death of her father.
Overall: I loved this book. It was touching and is the perfect book to read when you’re aching for an emotionally resonant book like The Fault In Our Stars.
Reading Challenges: This book does not count toward any challenges. Next year, I’m signing up for an audio book challenge. Track all my progress on my 2012 Challenges page.