cover image How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life

Sara Zarr. Little, Brown, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-03606-1

Seventeen-year-old Jill was dealt a shattering blow when her father died unexpectedly. Since then, Jill and her mother have been distant, like “twin planets orbiting the same universe of grief but never quite making contact.” Now her mother plans to fill the void by adopting a baby. As far as Jill is concerned, the plan is “lunatic,” but Mandy, the pregnant teen giving up her child, is relieved. She thinks she’s finally found a way to escape her emotionally abusive mother and her mother’s sexually abusive boyfriend by coming to live with Jill and her mother during the final weeks of her pregnancy. Alternating between the perspectives of Jill and Mandy, National Book Award– finalist Zarr (Story of a Girl) crafts intimate and authentic portraits of two vulnerable teens struggling to cope with uncertain futures. Independent and aggressive, Jill has little in common with Mandy, who’s sheltered yet very observant, but they form a sisterly bond as they face personal crises. Their slow, cautious efforts to build trust and better understand the meaning of family are expressed with the deepest compassion and kindness. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)