February 13, 2013

Latest Read: How to Save a Life

Here are the basics ...
How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr
Publication date: Oct. 18, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Borrowed from library

Summary: Ever since Jill MacSweeney's 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 somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted— so when Mandy becomes 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. (Adapted goodreads.com
My thoughts…
The good: I have to admit, after reading about 35 pages, I was having serious doubts about this book.  It alternates chapters between the two main characters - Jill and Mandy. Jill has spent the last year pushing everyone away as she struggles with the loss of her father. Mandy is a pregnant teenager who wants a better life for her unborn child. Their paths cross when Jill's mother decides to adopt Mandy's baby and allows her to live with them until she gives birth. From the beginning, I immediately connected with Jill. Even though I've never experienced her kind of loss, something about her pain and her rocky relationship with her mom struck a chord with me. With Mandy, I reacted to her the exact same way Jill did - I thought she was a nut job. Socially awkward to the point where I felt uncomfortable reading her first few chapters and my reason for doubting the book. But I tried to keep an open mind and reading on definitely paid off.

Both characters as so complex and with each passing chapter, I felt a deeper understanding for their individual journeys. For Jill, it's not just about facing her grief, it's about facing herself as well. Without her dad, she doesn't know who she is and can barely remember the person she used to be. The book is just as much about finding herself as it is about grief and accepting Mandy. And in a completely unexpected way, Mandy becomes the catalyst for all this. Even though I didn't warm up to Mandy right away, I eventually found her chapters so.. compelling. I mean they were really frustrating too but as time went on, I saw the strength in her character and I felt bad for her. She grew up in a very sheltered, unstable home with a mother who isn't exactly what you call nurturing. Being in Jill's home shows her what it's like to be part of a family and to be taken care of. As time goes on, the walls between Jill, Mandy and Jill's mother (who I haven't said much about but she's definitely a strong maternal figure for Mandy) start to crumble and watching their relationships change was so moving to read about.

(Potential) reservations: Just be prepared for the beginning. In hindsight, the way it began made sense so don't let that deter you.

Do I recommend?: I do. It's a really moving book about the meaning of family that surprised me in so many ways.

Happy reading!

3 comments:

  1. I've been eyeing this one for a long time! Thanks for a great review! New follower here, for sure!

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  2. I didn't think I was going to like this book either in the beginning of it :) I did like it by the end. I thought it was weird that even though I didn't really like any of the characters in the book besides Dylan, I got to understand them. Usually if I don't like the characters I don't end up liking the book... I guess this is the exception.

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  3. I'm really curious about this book! I've seen it before, but I hesitated to pick it up, mostly because I felt unsure about the story. But since it seems to focus on family dynamics (which is something I love), I'm thinking it deserves a try!

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