Rated Reads

How to Save a Life

by Sara Zarr

Rated: Moderate

Jill MacSweeney is a senior in high school struggling to cope with the grief of her father’s unexpected death 10 months earlier. Her father was the parent she felt close to, who got her. She’s left without his help to face not only the world, but her mother, and now her mother’s crazy scheme to deal with her grief by adopting a baby, at 52. Jill has told her mom over and over again that this isn’t a good idea, the open adoption with no lawyers or social workers involved that Robin MacSweeney has worked out online with a girl from Nebraska.

Mandy is 18, pregnant and desperate to make a decision on her own without anyone telling her what or what not to do. She leaves her mother and her mother’s boyfriend behind to travel by train to Denver and Robin, hoping to find the life for her baby that she herself never had.

The story is told from alternating perspectives, jumping back and forth between Jill and Mandy: Jill, as she tries to rekindle relationships with her boyfriend, best friends and mother, and figure out how to be Jill without her father around. The other perspective is Mandy’s, as her entire story, pregnancy and all, comes to light and she tries to figure out the rest of her life.

I really enjoyed the way Sara Zarr told this story. I tend to love books that jump back and forth between narrators like this one does, and this story especially needs the reader to see and understand both perspectives, how much Jill is struggling with everything internally while lashing out externally, and how desperate Mandy really is for friends and family.

Rated: Moderate. There are probably about 45-50 swear words, with one of them the f-word. Teen pregnancy and very brief, mild descriptions (sometimes just the knowledge that it happened) of teen sex and sexual abuse.

— Reviewed by Nancy Minster

Nancy Minster is an avid reader, is married to an avid reader and is the mother to four little kids who seem to like books as well. One can only wonder where they get it from!

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  • How to Save a Life
  • by Sara Zarr
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: