How to Save a Life tells the story of Jill, whose father has died leaving a gaping hole in her and her mother Robin's lives. Jill's solution to her grief is to retreat into a little ball of hurt and anger, lashing out at anyone who comes too near. Whereas Robin's solution is to adopt a baby...
Enter Mandy. Neglected by her mother, Mandy forms inappropriate attachments with complete strangers. Pregnant with a baby who could be the result of sexual abuse, Mandy's only thought is to give it up for adoption.
I really enjoyed How to Save a Life. Told from the dual perspectives of Jill and Mandy, it's a gentle, emotional read, and despite the difficult subject matters it never leaves you feeling raw. Sara Zarr paints both the protagonists perfectly, really letting you get into their characters.
For a book that on one hand is about the way people deal with grief over the death of a loved one, and about teenage pregnancy on the other, it would have been so easy for Sara Zarr to have made this overly melodramatic, like one of those awful made-for-TV films they show in the afternoons. Instead it's very restrained but still manages to make you care about the characters.
And the ending is just adorable.