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How To Save A Life [Hardcover]

Sara Zarr
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 1960

Jill MacSweeney 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. And 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.

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers; 1 edition (1 Jan 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316036061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316036061
  • ASIN: 0316036064
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,408,361 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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A new novel from National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr.

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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 Fantastic Gift 23 Mar 2014
By Raymond
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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. The delivery was quick and the book was as good as new.
I'll definitely recommend this book.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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By K. J. Noyes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Excellent young adult fiction. Intelligent, with well-written characters that you care about. Loved the dual narrator structure. Superb.
Lovely characters to care about and an involving plot that grips.

A good companion piece to the film Juno (without the laughs).
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2.0 out of 5 stars OK 24 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thought this was a little dull to be honest. The writing was OK but not really enough to maintain my interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 11 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this for my daughter who read it avidly...then I read it too. Great book for anyone interested in a social dillemma.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 14 months ago by Janew
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 14 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 15 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 15 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 15 months ago by bindiiromeo
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful and Moving Story
I'd read and loved Sara Zarr's `Story of a Girl' a few years back and so when I heard that her latest novel How to Save a Life was being published in the UK as her debut over here... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jess Hearts Books
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, tear jerking story
How to Save a Life is a mesmerising novel by Sara Zarr. Mandy Kalinowski is seventeen and pregnant. She reads a post from Jill's mother on an unofficial site about adoption and... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sarah
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