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How to Save a Life


How to Save a Life

Mandy Kalinowski is 18 and pregnant. She discovers an online post from Robin, who wants to adopt a baby, and agrees to travel to Colorado to meet her and her daughter, Jill. Robin’s husband of 24 years died suddenly months ago, and she wants to move forward with the plan they had always talked about. Jill is totally against it, but babies have a way of changing everything --- for everyone involved. This positive and surprising story is told from both Mandy’s and Jill’s perspectives.

"Both troubled young women are likable, and readers will be drawn into their story, as it heads towards a surprising and heartwarming conclusion."

It is easy not to be truthful online, but when Mandy is faced with Robin and Jill and has to go to doctor’s appointments, it becomes harder to explain why the birth will be four weeks later than she disclosed, or why there are no papers to be signed from the baby’s father. Robin is willing to go along with all of Mandy’s requests for no counselors or lawyers, but Jill is determined to find out more about Mandy.

It’s difficult for Jill to get up each morning. She was similar to her smart but grumpy father and was very close to him. After the accident, she is finding it hard to communicate with the only family member she has left. She has turned away her girlfriends, and has an on-again/off-again relationship with her longtime boyfriend, Dylan. The only place where she feels comfortable is at a bookstore. When a corporate theft management worker comes to look at the store and reveals that he knew her in high school, she is intrigued enough to open up to him about her sadness in a way she has not yet been able to do. He begins to pull her out of the frozen state she has maintained.

Mandy will do anything to stay at Robin’s house as long as she can, as she is so grateful to be away from the abusive household she left. She is afraid of Jill, who is rude to her, but warms up more and more to both women. Despite their sadness, they have more of a home than she has ever experienced. She is unable to think about placing the baby with them for adoption and moving away from the entire family towards her own life, but an item she stole from her mother’s boyfriend may help her fund a future.

When Jill intercepts a call from Mandy’s harsh mother, she realizes some of what has happened to the girl and starts warming up to her. Mandy needs help and, unlike Jill, has no family that will do so. Both Mandy and Jill start coming to terms with their past and the challenges of their present as the birth date draws nearer. Both troubled young women are likable, and readers will be drawn into their story, as it heads towards a surprising and heartwarming conclusion.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on December 18, 2011

How to Save a Life
by Sara Zarr

  • Publication Date: October 30, 2012
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 12+
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316036056
  • ISBN-13: 9780316036054