My initial reaction after completing this book-
If I could, I'd give this book not only 5, but a million shining and glowing stars that would live up to what this book is really worth.
You know, how there are 2 types of books. The first type are the ones that don't leave such an impression on you. They just pass by you without marking their presence and you move on with your life with no alterations on your part.
And the second type are a whole lotta different. They run through your head hours after turning the last page. They coerce you to ponder about the story, the characters, the words. You live the book as opposed to simply reading it. The books that are so hauntingly beautiful and life changing that you pause a moment and realise the true beauty of the book and emerge a different better person. You live them, breathe them, love them.
How TO Save A Life by Sara Zarr falls effortlessly into the second category. This was my first book by the author and I am awed. Awed. Fascinated. Enraptured.
The story was pretty simple and straightforward. It follows the life of two teenagers- Jill and Mandy.
Jill is a senior who is just recuperating from the recent death of her father. She is rude to the point of bitchiness, she is bitter, she is sullen and doesn't even regret it. Her behavior was understandable and predictable, if not a bit extreme. During the course of the novel, I was so exasperated with her being bitchy and shutting everyone out that i literally wanted to slap her. Yes, I know your father died and you're going through a rough patch but still. Seriously girl, try a little tenderness! ;)
Nevertheless, it was much easier to understand the crabbiness than the crap in Fall For Anything.
And then Mandy. She was polar different from Jill. She's pregnant and is giving up her baby in an open adoption to Jill's mother, Robin.When the delivery date nears, she moves in with Robin and Jill. And this is the part where the lies and deception start. No, not the kind of lies that are probably running through your head- the mafia lies, the killing lies. They were just innocent lies, said to soothe and uplift Robin's numb heart. She was so lost and child-like. It was heart rending to read about the kind of life she had had. I mean, just imagine the kind of life where your mother accuses you for being a burden. Who blames you for every thing gone wrong in her life, each day every day. Sad, isn't it? It was humbling, her behaviour.
But she was tad bit weird too. You know the kind of people who force their friendship onto you and won't leave you alone and they tell all kinds of things about themselves and you are left feeling all awkward and flustered. She was just like that. But after getting to know her, I can honestly say she was a real sweetheart.
Now, the prose was phenomenal. It is amazing to look at the way Miss Zarr string a couple of words together and creates such sentences that you want to stop and reread them to try and absorb their meaning. To feel them, to taste them, like they are something palpable. And, trust me, I can really vouch for it, seeing how half the text of my book is highlighted.
The story follows Jill as how she opens up again and gains acceptance of her father's death. Of how she finally learns to let go. How she begins to hope and live again. She discovers that its alright to be wrong once in a while.
Mandy discovers that maybe her life isn't all that bad and its alright to trust someone other than yourself and they won't let you down.
The book was so poignantly sad and beautiful that at times I really was smiling through my tears.
The author manages to steer the plot so gracefully that there isn't a dull moment. The relationships portrayed in the book are very real and brutally honest. The characters, oh the characters, they are so real, so strong and so mature that it was difficult to imagine that they were really teenagers.
And the review cannot truly be complete without a reference to Robin, Jill's mother. She was utterly, undeniably, flawlessly perfect. Not the perfect
perfect. But the imperfections-make-you-perfect. She was the perfect kind of loving mother, the grieving kind of wife, the rock of relationships. It was refreshing to read about the mother-daughter bond that is conveniently absent in most of the YA, courtesy the least resistant path for The Boyfriend to come and go as he pleases.The Best Parts
Dylan. The prose. Ravi. Robin. The phone calls. Christopher. Eyeliner. Yearbook. Lola. The necklace. Peanut butter...and just about everything else.
To Miss Zarr,
To the people who haven't read this yet, you really don't wanna miss this one. Get your hands on it now!
A definite MUST-READ