Book Review: How to Save a Life

December 29, 2011

If you don’t grow up to be a wife or a mother, what are you? A person alone, always wanting to be one thing or the other or both? My mother was never a wife, and that’s what she wanted more than anything. She didn’t want to be a mother, and she wasn’t one. Where does that leave her? A husband makes you a wife, and a child makes you a mother…What if there isn’t anyone to make you something?

howtosaveIn How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Mandy is searching for a new life for herself and her baby, and Jill is still recovering from the loss of her father. Their two paths cross when Jill’s mom offers to adopt Mandy’s baby, and Mandy comes to live with Jill and her mom.

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book, so some highlights of things I enjoyed:

– Sara Zarr is so great. SO GREAT. Here, she takes these two (three, really, if you count the mom) characters suffering from loss and grieving in their own ways and creates this quiet, yet powerful story about love, forgiveness, and family.

– I love the discussion about motherhood and worth highlighted in the quote above. The whole story isn’t devoted to that, but, wow, that moment hit me. What do we teach girls and women about their choices?

– The love interests are used well here. The relationships are important, but not so much that they take over the book. Basically, this book doesn’t become about the boys but stays about the girls and their own development and growth.

– I can understand the way both girls see the world. I can understand why Mandy makes people uncomfortable, but also why she latches onto them the way she does. I can see why Jill is so angry and brokenhearted and treats people cruelly but also with kindness. The characters are nuanced and flawed and real. Love.

– I like that the story ended exactly the way I thought it should, but I wasn’t sure how Zarr would get me to that ending. I also like that I didn’t expect the story to end the way I thought it should, but it did anyway. If that makes any sense.

This was just a great story. I really enjoyed it.

Support Your Local Library: 41; YA Reading Challenge: 36

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