Sara Zarr's new book, HOW TO SAVE A LIFE (Little Brown, January 2012) proves once again the power of Zarr's ability to carve characters and situations that seem ordinary enough on the surface but that have depth beyond first glimpse. Mandy is a teen who is pregnant. She knows she cannot provide for the baby and so she searches the message boards and lists seeking someone who might be a suitable candidate for adopting her unborn baby. Jill's mother answers Mandy's "ad" and brings her to stay with them as they prepare for the baby's arrival. Jill resents this: she is still dealing with her grief and despair over the loss of her father. The tension is palpable at home. The story, told in alternating voices (Jill and Mandy) unfolds slowly. Readers will come to understand how all the parties involved in HOW TO SAVE A LIFE have arrived at this point in their lives. <287>
Zarr's pacing and quiet revelations (no huge surprises here) make this a book that allows for reflection while reading, something rare and wonderful. No one is entirely right or wrong; no decision is reached easily. How can the story end? Whose life is being saved. Oh, Sara, so you came and you gave us a story. And we love you for that. Oh, Sara, well you made us care deeply for these girls. And we love you for that. (sung to the tune of "Mandy"?