How To Save A Life | Sara Zarr | Book Review

You know how it seems like everyone is in love with an author EXCEPT for you and you desperately want that head over heels feeling too? That was sort of my experience with Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, I enjoyed it a lot BUT I was not in love with the audiobook version of it. Of course I am not one to give up so I decided to give How To Save A Life a shot, strictly based on how much I love that song by The Fray and also the cover and then my friends love of Zarr. YOU GUYS NOW I KNOW! I have to read Sara Zarr in print in order to love her books because I was head over heels an emotional wreck while gripping my copy of How To Save A Life. Friends you can give me my card, as I am now a member of the Sara Zarr fan club. I TOTALLY GET IT.

How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr | Good Books And Good Wine

Jill’s father has recently died, leaving a huge void in her life and her mother’s life. Suffice to say, she is not taking it well at all. Unfortunately, Jill shows her feelings by lashing out and pushing everyone away. This is not to say that she is bad person or hard to like, but she’s not handling her father’s death well. Mandy is a pregnant teen who is living in some awful circumstances – her mom thinks only looks matter and believes you need a man to survive. Her mother’s boyfriend has taken an unhealthy interest in Mandy. The two girls come together when Mandy answers an ad by Jill’s mom, and so Mandy goes to stay with Jill and her mother until her baby is born. You see, Jill’s mom is going to adopt Mandy’s baby as a way to fill the void. And really, that’s probably the most concise version of the plot that I can give you.

Sara Zarr’s How To Save A Life is told using dual perspectives. We get both Jill’s point of view and Mandy’s point of view. First things first, Jill was my favorite of the two. Now, I know that most people who have reviewed this seem to think that Jill is not a very nice person. You know, I agree with that assessment of her. However, because I have a big bleeding heart, I felt so bad for her. I felt like she was justified in her reactions. She’s not having an easy go of it, and that’s okay because emotions happen. Things happen. As for Mandy, lol. Just lol. Okay, okay I will stop being an asshole. But, she’s very socially awkward and totally that weird kid and she gets into all these awkward situations, that looking back on this book a few weeks later make me LOL. Awful, I know. Anyways, she’s the sort of character who is desperate for attention and love and the way that Zarr writes her makes you totally feel the desperation wafting off the page.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS. Okay, so remember Cameron Quick? He’s not in this book. However, there’s totally some romance going on in How To Save A Life. First off, Jill has this ex-boyfriend named Dylan who is rock. You’ll get it when you read it. Naturally, there’s some interest there. HOWEVER, there’s a new guy who enters Jill’s life, Ravi. He is a cool kid and different. And just plain old nice. Friends, I like nice guys and so this book had me feeling satisfied when it came to the romance.

Of course, second to none are the feels. When it comes to discussing Zarr’s How To Save A Life I would definitely fail as a reviewer if I did not mention all the feels. Here’s the thing, I started this book at night, right and then had to go to bed because I just do not have the stay up late ability that other people seem to have. The very next day, I finished this book in my bed around 7:30 in the morning with tears streaming down my face because I was so overcome with emotion. Yes, I am totally THAT person who sobs hysterically at books before I have had my morning coffee or even brushed my teeth. There’s this magical way that Zarr has in describing Jill’s father, though, that made me grieve for him even though it’s not as though he dies during the book. Then, there’s the way she describes Mandy’s home life that again, has my heart sinking to my stomach and me reaching for the tissues. I felt ALL of the things while reading How To Save A Life, and thus recommend it HIGHLY to other emotional readers.

Disclosure: Received at omg please don’t hate on me haters, BEA 2011. I KNOWWWWWWW! I AM THE WORST AT READING DO NOT PELT ME WITH THINGS.

Other reviews of How To Save A Life by Sara Zarr:

Ivy Book Bindings – “I fell hard for the romance in this novel
YA Love Blog – “Prepare for gushing because this novel is beautiful and amazing.
Rather Be Reading – “I was completely mesmerized by her writing

Books by Sara Zarr:

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this book! I’ve never read anything penned by Sarah Zarr before, but it sounds as though this is definitely where I should start 🙂

    Jill’s situation sounds unimaginably difficult and I wouldn’t blame her for acting in a rather unsympathetic manner. Although I haven’t read it, I could easily believe she would be jealous of Mandy and Mandy’s growing relationship with Jill’s mother, as though the baby can act as a replacement for the father she lost. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would be able to handle that particular situation with a lot of grace either!

  2. Darn I was hoping you were going to say that you still didn’t get it. I disliked this one and The Lucy Variations although I did like her earlier work Once Was Lost. I just don’t get the feels.

  3. Yay! I loved Sweethearts when I read it (not on tape), and I am a member of the Sara Zarr fan club, although possibly not with all the enthusiasm that some members of it have. I do like her a lot though! And I am quite excited to read the books of hers that I haven’t yet gotten to.

  4. FIRST OF ALL. April, you get to books when you can get to them. No apologies. No hating.

    Second of all, I have yet to read a Zarr book even though I have two of them here – I have Sweethearts and Once Was Lost, both in print AND in audio. I like that you mention that Sweethearts in audio wasn’t really all that, so I’ll know to just print read her books – they’re short anyway and so it won’t be that big of a deal, right? But I WANT to read them. And I need to because she’s got quite a few and people really love her. I love the way you felt so much when you read this one because you know how I really love to FEEL THINGS when I read, so this is one that I’ll probably grab from the library as I know that both of my libraries carry it and I’ll probably at least tear up although it will probably be AS I’m drinking my coffee because I do nothing before except brush my teeth.

    I love this review. So informative and just GREAT. Thanks, April!

  5. I haven’t read anything else by Sara Zarr but How To Save a Life was a great book! So emotional! I’m not usually one for contemps (but I’ve been getting more into them lately) and this one was really touching. I loved how real it was.

  6. How to Save a Life was my first experience with Zarr, and I’m glad it was. I agree with basically everything you said here – it was such an emotional and wonderful book. I also loved Jill, so you’re not alone in that! Reading your review made me relive my own experience of reading it a few months ago. I’m glad you can call yourself a Sara Zarr fangirl now – I know that I can now as well!

  7. I haven’t read a Zarr book either, but the way you’ve reviewed this one makes me want to read it. It sounds WONDERFUL, and that’s mostly because it managed to give you all the feels! The two characters – Mandy and Jill – sound very different, but I think I would love both their stories separately and how they intertwine too. I definitely need to check her books out!

    (P.S. I agree with Asheley! You read those books when you can get to them. Definitely don’t need to be sorry for that!)


  1. […] I just got this weird vibe from him the whole time I was listening to the book. Honestly, I liked How To Save A Life much more than this. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this was a bad book. Just, I have […]