Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

how to save a life sara zarr

How to Save a Life is told from the dual perspectives of Mandy and Jill, two very different girls who have lived vastly different lives. Jill has always had financial security and lives in a cozy McMansion in an upper class neighborhood. She learns her comfortable life doesn’t shield her from grief and loneliness when her dad, Mac dies. Mandy has grown up living with whatever boyfriend her mother was currently dating; feeling invisible only “seen” when she was wanted for something, never feeling love from her mother only that she was a burden. When Mandy finds out she’s pregnant, she feels she has no other choice but to flee everything she has known, and give her baby the hope she never had… and maybe find out there’s still hope for her too.

I never expected How to Save a Life  to pack the emotional punch that it did. It definitely hit close to home for me. I don’t usually go into personal details on my book blog – but in order to explain why this book touched me the way it did, I have to share some of myself.

I do have to get some small gripes with How to Save a Life off my chest first though. There were a lot of points in time when reading that I wanted to shake some sense into Mandy and Jill. I could understand why they were behaving the way they were – but I wanted to shout at them to WAKE UP! I know we have moments when we are stuck in our own pain or grief and just can’t even see the things we’re doing, but it seemed a bit TOO heavy handed in my opinion.

To explain how How to Save a Life touched me in such a person way, I’ll tell you a little bit about part of my life story. (feel free to yawn here :D) I was “given up” for adopted as soon as I was born. To say the least, my “conception” was not planned and most likely (from my birth-mother’s perspective, and I agree with her) my birth would’ve caused a rift in the family. Fortunately, instead of staying in the foster system for half my life, I was adopted at the early age of 6 months old. I’ve been extremely blessed to grow up surrounded by love and support.

So, in this way, I could understand the hopes that Mandy had for her unborn baby. Why she was willing to risk it all for that hope she didn’t have herself. What I didn’t expect, was to think of my birth mother. I don’t think of her often, but she will always be a part of my story because without her I would not exist. Before reading How To Save a Life, I don’t think I ever thought or understood in such a profound way, what she was sacrificing to give me the love and family I have. It put things into perspective for me and I almost feel like my heart is closer to her. When I finished the book I had this desire to write her a thank you note. To let her know that I knew that what she did took courage and that I knew she wasn’t trying to throw me away – in fact the exact opposite, she was showing me the only act of love she could – giving me away so I would have the chances I couldn’t have with her. I wanted to tell her that the sacrifice she made by putting me up for adoption was not in vain because I do have the family she wanted for me.

How To Save a Life, for me is one of those special books that is going to leave an indelible mark. No one will see it except for me – but I am more grateful for my family, the love I’ve got around me, and most of all my life.

It’s so hard to rate this one. If I was rating it strictly as a book – and not how it made me feel, probably 4 stars because of how annoyed I got from Mandy and Jill. Yet, how can I separate the book from how it made me think? Is that even fair, since isn’t that the point of every work of art? If I was rating it solely based on how it made me reflect on my life and the thoughts it inspired, I’d give it a 5.

I guess what I will do is pass the buck. Read the book and then tell me – how do you rate it? 🙂

How to Save a Life is Available: AMAZON | B&N | BD | Hachette – LBYR

Follow Sara Zarr Around the Web: Twitter | Facebook | Website

I received this ARC from another blogger.




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About April

A twenty-something who's always had a love for reading and now that passion includes her nook! When not blogging or reading, she's probably chatting on Skype--or doing all those things at once with music and TV in the mix! More posts by April »


  1. I’ve been wanting to read this one, but haven’t seen many reviews on it. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m happy that things worked out for the best for you. 🙂 I’ll definitely be picking this one up! 🙂
    Holly (Lily’s Bookshelf) recently posted..The Revenant by Sonia Gensler


  1. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr | The Lost Entwife says:

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