How to Save a Life

Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life, is a light hearted novel about a Jill, teenager who lost her father and Mandy, a teenager who became pregnant and chooses to find an adoptive family for her soon to be child.

While the novel covers very difficult topics (death of a parent, teen pregnancy, adoption, abuse, abandonment), the tone of the novel is light. The characters deal with difficult issues and end up gaining a family on the process. The story was straight forward and enjoyable to read, but didn’t dive too deep into the issues ripping Jill and Mandy’s life apart. The most insightful character is Jill’s goth boyfriend who understands both girls better than they understand them self. Of course, it isn’t until they have their own personal break throughs that they are able to attain the happiness that is due to them in life and miraculously everyone will get to live happily ever after.

I don’t mean to sound disparaging of this book. I did enjoy reading it and got through the book very quickly. However, thinking about the book afterwards, it was just a little too convenient of an ending. Not very realistic and they never explored the sexual abuse which probably resulted in Mandy’s pregnancy. She lives in a delusional world where her one night stand, a cute boy met at a traveling fair, is the father of the child, instead of her mother’s boyfriend who repeatedly slept with her. (Spoiler alert) The whole novel feeds her delusions even letting her be the one adopted instead of the baby. Sheer lunacy. But somehow felt ok while reading the book.

I think Zarr did a better characterization of Jill, the more typical teenager who resents the only parent she has left, and she felt more real. Mandy’s life felt like a dream someone like Jill would have where everything was the opposite of her privileged life, but of course, she couldn’t let it end realistically. So everyone gets the happy ending.

Read April 2013


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