Monday 3 December 2012

338. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Published December 2012 Usborne

From the publisher
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 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 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 falls pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. But 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.

This is a book that's full of sadness, but it isn't a sad book.  It is about death, birth, family, grief, anger, wrong decisions and hopefully being able to make the right ones.  Sara Zarr has managed to capture the confusing mix of emotions that sometime make us behave in ways that are at complete odds with our true selves.  Told from dual perspectives, we have the stories about two very different girls, who ultimately want exactly the same thing.

Jill MacSweeney is still grieving the death of her Dad.  She was always closer to him, and she struggles to figure out how to get close to her Mother.  She has isolated herself from her friends, and her boyfriend, backed herself into a corner that she can't find a way out of. When her Mother decides she wants to adopt a baby Jill doesn't understand why as it feels like she's trying to fill the hole that her dad left behind.

Mandy Kalinowski has not had an easy life.  She grew up with a Mother who didn't want her, moving from one lowlife boyfriend to the next.  At 17 and pregnant Mandy knows that motherhood is not for her, so she finds Jill's Mum, Robin, online, and moves in with them until the baby is born and they can adopt it.

For me, a book that has truly believable characters in it, is sometimes difficult to read.  This is how I felt about this book.  As I am reading I could feel Jill’s pain, and as she forced herself into a corner and kept pushing everyone away, I just wanted to help her find a way out.

Mandy was just as difficult to read too, from the very beginning when she was on the train, and imagining a life with a man she had just met, and when she continued this fantasy by writing to him and making plans to see him again,  I wanted to tell her to stop and get her to focus on what was happening in her ‘real’ life.

It’s the sort of book that really lets you inside the characters heads, we see the sides of people we would normally not be able to see, and while they may behave in one way on the outside, what is going on inside is a completely different story.  This is a book where I really felt I knew the characters, and by the end of the book I really didn’t want it to end.

Who will like this book: Girls age 15+
Read it if you like: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

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