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

Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

2020935Blurb from Goodreads

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another’s only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she’s lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she’s popular, happy, and dating, everything “Jennifer” couldn’t be—but she still can’t shake the memory of her long-lost friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

From the National Book Award nominated author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

ebook, 133 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
edition language: English
genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Jenna Vaughn is the new version of Jennifer Harris. She spent her childhood being bullied by her friends while her mom kind of neglected her. She has only her bestfriend, Cameron Quick who is understand, accompany and love her. But one day, when she was 9 years old he left her behind, without even say goodbye. She then decided to change herself, to left her childhood memory behind, to not be bullied anymore. She and her life changed in a better way but her mind still wraps in her childhood memory. Both memories she wants to forget and all memories she forgets but want to remember.

This book already captured my eyes and heart from the very first page. It reminds me so much of Hopeless by Colleen Hoover but at the same time it’s also way different. Maybe that’s why I kind of prepare myself for what happen with Jenna will be similar to Sky’s childhood. Along the way, I keep wondering what was actually happen to her and Cameron. I have scenarios about it and eager to know if my guess is right or wrong. And when I finally got the answer, I want more. Sara Zarr didn’t describe much about Cameron’s abusive father nor his childhood life but in some way it made me feel sadder for him. His silence feels more heartbreaking.

I also love the way she wrote Jenna childhood memory and her past. Usually, when I read a flashback story, the past story is written in different chapter as a present one. But here, Jenna’s past can be anywhere. It could be when she faced one thing then remember the similar thing in the past or it could be when she is told something and it brings her memory. In some part it kind of random memory and quite overlapped with her present. But to me, it feels real. It what usually happens to me when I remember something from my past.

This story doesn’t have surprises, not in a way when I couldn’t guess it or when I didn’t see things in the story. Yet, the ending left my eyes and mouth wide open. I even think that I read an unfinished story. Somehow I thought the book that I read have a technical error, maybe the publisher unintentionally cut the ending because I surely didn’t read the closure from the characters. Then, I thought maybe it is what it is. The author left it intentionally, just like Christopher Nolan did in Inception. Both of them finish their work into unfinished business and let their audience decide it. Whatever the ending I decided for Jenna and Cameron, the last chapter of their story feels more real to me because I agree with Jenna. Life is full of unfinished business and people do change. One day you can have a boyfriend/a girlfriend but then you can lose him/her. You can say you never have best friends but who knows maybe you will find them in the future. Along the process, sometimes you will meet someone who you never thought will meet again or lucky enough to meet someone who comes into your life and leave a mark. People can come and go, you can love and heartbroken but it is life and as much as we don’t want to face it we have to move on. I think a song from Joel and Luke describes this story perfectly, it called People Change.

Wanna tell ya I’m alright
Wanna say I’m not in pain
But I would just be tellin’ lies
I’m not okay, not okay

Wanna travel back in time
And say the things I didn’t say
I wanna tell ya everything, if it’s not too late
Is it too late?

Will you be there if I call?
Will you leave me in the rain?
If I say it’s all my fault
Will you still walk away?
I understand if you’re afraid
But people change, people change

Stay right here and talk to me
Let me tell you what I’ve seen
I won’t be how I used to be
‘Cause now I know, now I know

Never saw the real you
I never really let go
Now I’m out here on my own
‘Cause you’re my home
You’re my home

Will you be there if I call?
Will you leave me in the rain?
If I say it’s all my fault
Will you still walk away?
I understand if you’re afraid
But people change, people change

And I’m not gonna let you down this time
Darling don’t be afraid
People change
And I can change

Will you be there if I call?
Will you leave me in the rain?
If I say it’s all my fault
Will you still walk away?
I understand if you’re afraid
But people change, people change
People change, people change

Result: 4 of 5 stars
Favorite quotes:
“the past only had whatever power you gave it; life was what you made it and if you wanted something different from what you had, it was up to you to make it happen.”
“Life was mostly made up of things you couldn’t control, full of surprises, and they weren’t always good. Life wasn’t what you made it. You were what life made you.”
“Life needed a fast forward button. Because there were days you just don’t want to live through, not again, but they kept coming around and you were powerless to stop time or speed it up or do anything to keep from having to face it.”
“Other memories stick, no matter how much you wish they wouldn’t. They’re like a song you hate but can’t ever get completely out of your head, and this song becomes the background noise of your entire life, snippets of lyrics and lines of music floating up and then receding, a crazy kind of tide that never stops.”
“Sitting and waiting for something to happen was the worst kind of torture.”