Sara Zarr explores the healing process in her newest novel, How to Save a Life. Still not recovered from her father's death almost a year earlier, Jill hides her pain behind anger and bitterness toward the world. Then Jill's mom decides to adopt a baby from Mandy, a pregnant teen she met on line. Mandy will be staying at Jill's house until the baby is born. Jill feels her mom is trying to replace her father and doesn't trust Mandy at all. Meanwhile, Mandy has her own problems: Her mom, a former teen mom, doesn't even try to hide the fact she believes Mandy messed up her life by being born. Additionally, Mandy fears her own child might be the result of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's live-in boyfriend. Can Jill and Mandy learn to live with each other? And can they heal from past hurts and move on to a better future?
Although the story wraps up a bit too "happily ever after" for a piece of realistic fiction, this is nonetheless a satisfying read. The highlight is the excellent character development, which is what drives the story. Recommended for teen girls looking for something other than vampires, werewolves, and faeries. --AJL