Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

11511594Blurb from Goodreads

Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends — everyone who wants to support her. When her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted — to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy — or as difficult — as it seems.

ebook, 341 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
edition language: English
genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
My Thoughts
I have to admit that I was kinda hesitated to read this book in the first place. It has high rating while I often being in the minority. And the story sounds so serious and a bit “heavy” for a YA book, at least YA books I usually read while I feel like I need “light” reading every time I want to read it. That’s why I kept put it down to read other books. Now I’m glad I give it a try.

The characters
It was quite hard to love both Jill and Mandy, the main characters in this story, at the beginning. They both wear a mask and good at telling lies. They have flaws and sometime are annoying and frustrating characters. I couldn’t decide whose side I am, Jill or Mandy.

“My mother says I have no social sense. She says I make people uncomfortable.”

Mandy, an 18 years old girl who wants to give her baby up, is naive, can be so annoying, yet is so brave. Some many times I want to yell at her to stop being ridiculous and doing unbelievable things. But then I’ve never been in her shoes before, the more I read her story, the more I understand her and she isn’t that hard to love, eventually.

“For someone who’s never been to Pancake Universe, Mandy makes her decision pretty fast, barely looking at the menu before closing it and setting it down. Everything sounds gross to me, and the table is sticky. PU doesn’t have the kind of hash browns I like. I like chunks of real potatoes, and these are the shredded crap that comes out of the freezer. […]“Don’t you want some protein, honey?” Mom asks. Already Mandy is “honey”? Traditionally, I am “honey.”

On the other hand, I do understand Jill’s feeling toward her new life. She just lost her dad, changed into someone else, someone who is completely different before the death of her dad. I think she has the right to be confused and is feel been ignore by her mom and jealous with Mandy and her baby, but sometime I also want to ask her to try to put herself in Mandy’s shoes and look from different side.

Although they make it hard for me to love them, I can’t help not to fall in love with them slowly. They surely develop throughout the story and they feel real for me.

The story
I think it isn’t a new story in a history of YA books, but it feels different from other YA books I’ve read. It isn’t a cliche and predictable story. Many times I kept waiting particular things will happen since I thought it will be as cliche and predictable as it can be. But most of the time I was wrong and am so glad that it turn out differently, though I’m sure readers can guess easily the ending for Jill and Mandy when they start reading it. And it’s beautifully written too.

“Life is always moving forward, forward, forward. Relentless. If someone offered me a time machine right now and I could go back to before my dad died, I would, of course, if only to see if I could save him. But then I’d want to come right back here, to face the next unknown moment and the next and the next.”

The way it is written and the way Jill and Mandy tell their stories, makes it easier for me to understand them better and be with them.

Actually this book has one thing I usually didn’t quite like, an insta-love. Mandy often do unbelievable things that make me questioning her. One of those things that made me roll my eyes is the way she first and only meet with the love of her life or I think it is an insta-lust/love.

“It was a summer one-night stand. Mandy says it was love. She says love is love whether it happens in five minutes or five years. Usually I just try not to laugh. But once in a while, I decide that I don’t always have to be right.”

But I can make an exception if it handles well. As much as I think Mandy do an unbelievable thing, I can buy her insta-love and just like Jill, I decide that it is one of my exceptions of an insta-love story.

All in all, I loved everything in this book, including the cover which I think suits the story perfectly.

Result: 4 out of 5 stars

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