How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Okay. I've calmed down from my disappointment at the ending, and I am ready to give my review. First, though--when did they put a girl on the cover? In my ARC copy, the benches are empty!
My review...well, I read Story of a Girl a while back and just fell in swooning love with it, and consequently, its author. But...I was so bummed that this one wasn't as good!
I love the author because she is very simple in her writing style. That's still here in this book. So are the FOR REAL characters. You feel like you know them. They are awesome. They are your friends. They talk like real people, act like real people, are screwed up. They've got issues. I like reading about issues. In this book, one of the issues is something that's on my gag list--child molesting. So that was a little ick for me. It's not very graphic, though, unlike some other YA books that are just too much for me. I put the book aside for a few days once I got some pretty strong hints about that aspect, but I picked it back up and finished most of it in a day. It's a quick read, and the heavy issues are there, but they aren't rammed down your throat in a vomit-inducing kind of way. I like that. Subtle is the name of the game in good YA. YA that is graphic just for the shock factor really makes me mad. It's almost like the authors are just trying to get on a banned-books list, or to shock kids by telling them in graphic detail about stuff that, honestly, kids should not know about. Not in that much detail. ANYWAY, sorry for the rant. The point is, this book sidesteps the graphic while giving you all the impact of the issue.
The next thing I just loved about this book was the relationship between Jill and her father. So wonderful, and real, and OMG--he didn't even molest her! Sometimes I think YA authors want us to think that all fathers are secretly pedophiles. Jill's father is dead, but awesome. However, Mandy's stepfather is...something. Not a pedophile exactly, since she's 17 or 18 when the abuse takes place. And she has mixed feelings about it, so...anyway. Her mom's boyfriend molests her, and she takes it because she never gets attention from her mom or anyone else. Mandy is...psychotic. Like, hilariously crazy. That made it a little more bearable to read, because there was some relief from the squig factor.
I read a few reviews that said they didn't like either of the narrators. I loved Jill. She was so real, so pissed, so flawed. It was harder for me to like Mandy. She was sort of...bland. And the way they suddenly became friends seemed, well, sudden. The guys--I think I have a book-crush on Dylan. I LOVED him. Why didn't HE get a happy ending?
What I didn't like about this book: the ending. Predictable, and kind of lame. Honestly, I'm severely disappointed. Sara Zarr is an author who tackles real subjects with bravery and delicacy. I expect so much more than the ending I got. It was completely unrealistic, and way too happy. I'm all for a happy ending, but not if it doesn't fit the material. That's how this one seemed. Sure, I'd like everything to end up shiny happy in real life. But the point is, it doesn't. Mandy never had to pay for any of her mistakes. Sometimes that happens. But not in the way it happens in this book. I just got to the end and said, "WHATEVER! That would NEVER happen." It was a major letdown.
character: yay! plot: meh. ending: boo.
Recommended for YA readers who like lots of character development and not a lot of action.
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