Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

After the sudden death of her father, her rock, seventeen-year-old Jill is trying to cope the best way that she knows how – by unleashing her anger and self-loathing on everyone around her. During the ten months following the accident, Jill has managed to alienate her friends, her boyfriend, and her mother in a feeble attempt at self-preservation. While she is busy living in her downward spiral, her mother decides to fulfill a dream that she and her husband shared. She wants to adopt a child and give it a loving home. When Mandy, the “human incubator” arrives, Jill must learn that loss comes in many forms. While some people lose the ones they love, others lose things like innocence and security. As everyone awaits the baby’s arrival, their lives begin to intertwine and they learn that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

 Zarr has a very poignant writing style. Each of her characters has a distinct voice and personal perspective that adds to the depth of the story being told. This is a story about a lot of things. One of the main things is looking below the surface to see the core of something. While Jill hides behind anger, piercings, and dark eyeliner, Mandy hides behind her angelic looks and quiet compliance. They’re mirror images of each other, each suffering silently. However, although Mandy seems slow and ignorant, she’s honest with herself while Jill can’t quite seem to do the same. 


Although I enjoyed this book, I was a little disappointed that everything worked out perfectly in the end. Even people who want to spread kindness to people who are less fortunate tend to experience some form of resistance. It was almost as if the mother was too perfect. She never seemed to get upset, and she was more than willing to comply with unreasonable demands (i.e. no adoption agreement, the father of the baby). Although I like novels to end on a hopeful note, I also like them to be realistic. Even the love triangle was quickly and pleasantly resolved, where no one got hurt and no one was upset. 

But, still, despite the ending, I think that the overall message is important. People need to extend kindness. Every action has an equal or lesser reaction. Why not have that action be kindness? Who knows? Maybe it could save a life. 

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