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How to Save a Life [Paperback]

Sara Zarr
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Book Description

1 Sep 2012
From the best-selling author, Sara Zarr, comes the remarkable story of what it means to be a family, and the many roads we can take to become one. Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college - nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby. Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing - her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes. As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn both how to hold on and how to let go, finding that nothing is as easy - or as difficult - as it seems.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409546756
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409546757
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 18.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A beautifully handled exploration of grief and love, as seen through the eyes of two very different 17-year-old girls... Sensitively told, this emotionally-charged story avoids cliché, possesses a cast of fully-formed characters and is an achingly poignant read. --The Daily Mail

Zarr's novel is a rich tapestry of love and survival that will resonate with even the most cynical readers. --Booklist

...a moving, funny and emotionally honest story. --Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2011

Book Description

A new novel from National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique novel with a beautiful message 13 Sep 2012
How to Save a Life was the first book I've read by Sara Zarr and I have to say, I'm really impressed. Contemporary fiction is one of my favourite genres but at the same time, books like this can be quite tricky. Books dealing with the loss of a loved one can quite easily turn into something very cheesy and over-the-top. However, it's definitely not the case with How to Save a Life. Not only is Zarr's book frighteningly real, its concept is very unique and I love the message it conveys.

The book tells the story of two seventeen year-old girls with two completely different backgrounds. Mandy grew up in a single-parent family by her alcoholic mother - she dropped out of high school, never really had friends or a loving family. She's desperately trying to get away from her old life and start it all over again, to build a better future for herself and the baby but doesn't know how. And we have Jill, only child to a well-to-do mother, who has just lost her father in an accident and who's been trying to go back to her old self ever since, without success. I didn't really manage to connect to either of them at first: I found Mandy quite naive and `away with the fairies', and Jill very rude and full of herself, but they both grew on me soon enough. And I loved the contrast between the two of them: the fact that apart from the baby, Mandy has nothing or no one else - not even a proper, loving family or a better future to look forward to, while Jill has a loving mum and friends she could count on and all she does is drive them away and completely alienate herself.

Going back to my original remark about contemporary fiction, where most of these books go wrong, if you ask me, is romance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Realistic fiction" at its best 28 Nov 2011
I love that description - "realistic fiction" - because that's exactly what it was, fiction that could happen to anybody.

What can I say that other reviewers haven't already?
I take everything I said about Sara Zarr back. I still stand by what I said about "Once Was Lost", but Zarr, as a writer, is incredible.

She knows how to make you relate with every single character: from rebellious and hurt Jill, to creepily hollow Mandy, to grieving Robin, to confused Dylan and to understanding Ravi. Every single character in this book had an important part to play in those girls' lives.

Mandy is such a difficult girl to like, and yet Zarr makes sure that you do end up liking her and even rooting for her. Your emotions towards her transform as the book progresses right along with Jill's emotions towards her. Mandy can come off as creepy, and strange. Her dialogue is a little scary at times, almost stalker-like, obsessive and very manipulative. But then...there are certain moments, certain things she says in her narrative that make you stop and think - wow, that was deep. And as Mandy's past is revealed, and as her story unfolds, you start feeling protective over her. You want to save her.

Jill, on the other hand, comes off as the typical rebellious teenage daughter. But there's a catch - her father had just recently passed away in a car crash. Her father, who was her best friend, role model, and "mirror". Her father, who was the only person who really understood her and could make her a better person. Her anchor was gone, and she felt lost and hurt and confused. Naturally, it caused her to lash out. Because she was hurting, she needed to hurt those around her as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How To Save A Life 30 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a truly beautiful book. I loved reading it. It shows the love between mother and daughter very clearly and the way the book ends is perfectly fitting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very touching 10 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book, it was very touching and well written (made me cry!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars How to Save a Life 9 May 2014
By Kat
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I don't know why it takes me forever to read books that are very highly rated by the blogger community. How to Save a Life is one of those books - a lot of bloggers that I have similar tastes to loved it, and yet it took me a long time to get to reading it. And yes, I do wish I had picked it up sooner.

How to Save a Life is a book that clicked with me from the first page. Jill is dealing with the death of her father the only way she knows how - by pushing people away and shutting them out of her life, including her boyfriend Dylan. And when her mother decides to adopt a baby, Jill is immediately completely against the idea. The connection that Jill had to her father is the thing that really resonated with me - her love and respect for him, and her overwhelming grief at her death felt so personal, so real and was so heartbreaking.

Although she felt closest to her father, she also has a lot in common with her mother, which she doesn't seem to see in her grief - they are both intelligent, focused women and I loved them both as characters. Even their questionable decisions and reactions endeared them to me, because throughout everything both of their hearts were in the right place. Jill is independent, strong minded and I liked that she embraced her feelings and went with her instincts, whether they were right or wrong.

Told in alternating POVs, Mandy irritated me at first - she's the kind of person I would have a similar reaction to as Jill, but as the story progressed and more of her life and background was revealed, I also started to feel sympathy towards her. It's just another example of how good How to Save a Life really is - that Zarr could make me feel that I was in Jill's seat, and my emotions changed along with hers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Gift
Gave this book a 5* rating mainly due to the persons interest towards the book.
I've read the book myself and it's pretty good. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Raymond
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book which explores the intricacy of relationships.....
This book pulled me in from the start... constantly wondering what the outcome would be? Teenagers and all they go through is a very strong theme in this book.
Published 6 months ago by paula lawless
5.0 out of 5 stars How To Save a Life - how YA fiction is better than a lot of adult...
Excellent young adult fiction. Intelligent, with well-written characters that you care about. Loved the dual narrator structure. Superb. Read more
Published 17 months ago by K. J. Noyes
2.0 out of 5 stars OK
Thought this was a little dull to be honest. The writing was OK but not really enough to maintain my interest.
Published 18 months ago by maeelizabeth
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Bought this for my daughter who read it avidly...then I read it too. Great book for anyone interested in a social dillemma.
Published 19 months ago by Mrs A Norfield
4.0 out of 5 stars worth it
this book made me feel a little uncomfortable, I didn't really like either of the main characters (Jill and Mandy) to begin with, but as I read on and their relationship developed,... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written
The book was written from two different peoples' perspectives. I thought the author captured the different way each character was thinking really well in the writing style. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Tania Openshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Amzing!!!!
This book is so touching and at the end they are all completely different people to the beginning and its almost a fairy tale ending!!!!! <3
Published 20 months ago by Liberty Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and intriguing
Well written, loved it, family and roots and belonging.........makes us who we are! Loved the characters and their personalities.....a good read.
Published 20 months ago by really useful app, like the fact I can keep a running total as I use as a budget calculator
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly broke the mould!
Something completely different from what I usually read. Although slightly confusing in places, I really enjoyed this book and how the plot developed and worked out for everyone... Read more
Published 20 months ago by bindiiromeo
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