Confession time here: I’m a plot reader. I love to read books simply because I have fun meeting new people, experiencing new places, and closing a book at the end with a sense of satisfaction. I don’t look for major hidden meanings or delve too deeply into a character’s motive. I essentially, like a good story.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr is a good story. It is what I like to call a “quiet book.” In other words, I will have a hard time booktalking the book because it doesn’t have buildings exploding, and zombies killing kids, but quiet books have a strength all their own and deserve to have attention. In Zarr’s book, we meet two girls who are going through some very traumatic experiences. Jill has lost her father to a car accident, and she has become quite bitter and resentful of life in general. She can’t connect with her mother anymore, and she has pretty much driven away all her friends. Enter into her life, Mandy, who is running away from her own life for various reasons. Mandy is pregnant, and Jill’s mom, much to Jill’s horror and dismay, has agreed to adopt Mandy’s baby.
Zarr does a brilliant job of capturing each girl’s voice in such a distinct manner, even without the headings before each chapter changing perspectives, the reader would know who was telling the story. Jill is hostile; Mandy is inappropriate in social situations. Jill is fearful; Mandy is hopeful. Jill is struggling; Mandy is finding her core of strength. As a reader, you find yourself rooting for both girls at the same time, even as they want different things and would result in different outcomes. Take time to read this thoughtful and wonderful book and let me know what you think.
Recommended for 8th grade readers and up.