Book Review: “How to Save a Life”
Reviewed by Ashley Barker, 19
Have you ever read a book where you feel like you become one with the character every time you pick it up? You feel what they feel, laugh at the stupid things they do—and then you realize it’s just a book, not your life. Well, that was the experience I had when reading How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr.
The book follows the lives of two teen girls: Amanda Madison and Jill McSweeney. Amanda (Mandy) is 18 years old and pregnant. Jill and Robin McSweeney bring Mandy into their home because Jill’s mother plans to adopt Mandy’s baby. Jill, who is still dealing with the death of her father, has trouble adjusting to what she believes is her mother’s attempt to replace Jill’s father.
At first, I was skeptical of the book’s premise. I was compelled to follow Jill’s story more than Mandy’s. Jill fits the description of a rebel, but there is more to her character than that. Although her heart is in the right place most of the time, she often finds herself regretting the things she says when it comes to her mother, her on-and-off boyfriend Dylan, the “super spy” guy Ravi, and Mandy. Mandy, meanwhile, is like an innocent butterfly, wanting to believe that she is more than what her mother says. She is a compelling character who grew up in a rough environment and is someone who many teenage girls may relate to. The author carefully develops the characters by bringing their pasts into light, and there is major character growth between Jill and Mandy, who begin to form a friendship.
While I found the characters easy enough to relate to, and the themes of friendship, family, and innocence well developed, there are still some questionable details involving Mandy, Robin, and the process of the adoption that didn’t seem completely based in reality.
I was more than happy with the ending though—new friendships are created and bonds are formed. I am generally a picky reader, and I am happy to say that as a first-time reader of Sara Zarr, I was not disappointed.
This book is part of our Summer Book Buzz series. Click here to read more reviews and our summer reading recommendations!
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