Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to Save a Life, Sara Zarr

A student of mine told me I had to read this book, so I did - and I was not disappointed!

The story is about three women - Robin, Jill, and Mandy. Robin and Jill are mother and daughter and the main man in their lives, Robin's husband and Jill's father, has passed away recently in a tragic car accident. Jill, closer to her father than her mother, has had a difficult time dealing with the death, and this only becomes worse when her mother announces that she's going to adopt a baby. Jill thinks this is a terrible idea, but her mother won't listen. On top of that, the situation surrounding the adoption is anything but ordinary: the birth mother, Mandy, is not yet finished with high school, refuses to sign any legal papers and wants everything on her terms, and is going to stay with Robin and Jill for the weeks leading up the pregnancy. Jill could not be more upset - she even enlists the help of a sleuth-y friend to figure out what Mandy's hiding and try to protect her mom from being hurt.

Predictably, Mandy has second thoughts about giving up her unborn baby girl towards the end of the novel, but it all works out in the end in a surprising twist. I really liked the ending, and watching Jill and Mandy's relationship unfold.

This book, as well as a few I've read recently (If You Find Me and Small as an Elephant) really made me think about what family means, how we cover for our family members, and the possibilities for choosing your own family. I've always been told things like "you get to pick your friends, but you're stuck with your family," but these books kind of negate that claim, which made them really interesting for me to think about.

There was some mild language in the book and, again, some discussion of sexual abuse, so I'd recommend this only to my more mature readers, and definitely girls. Now I want to try Zarr's book Story of A Girl (2007) and her new one The Lucy Variations, which just came out in May.

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