How to Save a LifeHow to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sara Zarr writes the sort of books that are populated with characters who feel so real, you know you’d recognize them if you met them on the street. I couldn’t put this one down – I felt desperate for the characters to get to some emotional resolution. The good news is that the ending is satisfying but not too tidy. Just enough is left to your imagination.

The viewpoint alternates between Mandy, a pregant teen, and Jill, a high school senior whose widowed mother wants to adopt Mandy’s baby. Yeah, it sounds like an after-school special – and I kept waiting to dislike Robin for what seemed like an impulsive decision, but I never did. Jill got angsty and annoying, but in a realistic teenagery way. Mandy seemed a little air-headed, but again, it worked. They all came together. They figured it out – how to get along with each other. How to try a little tenderness, how to listen to what Mac would have told them if he were still alive.

There are a few messy romantic storylines, although “romantic” is not really the way to describe how Jill and her on-and-off boyfriend act around each other. But they’re not the central part of the story. It’s about family, yes, but also about trying to find the best part of yourself to show other people, even when being shut-off and hard is a lot easier.

Definitely recommended to fans of character-driven stories – and to adults as well as teens, I think. Obviously teen pregnancy is part of the story, and Mandy has a pretty awful past, but nothing is explicit.

Source: review copy from publisher

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