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"How to Save a Life" is by local author Sara Zarr. A launch party is Oct. 20 at the King's English Bookshop.

"HOW TO SAVE A LIFE," by Sara Zarr, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 352 pages (f)

Since her father’s death, Jill doesn’t know who she is anymore. Between losing her greatest confidant, and existing in the same world that once held her father, Jill feels his absence desperately.

When her mother announces that she is going to adopt a baby, Jill knows that it's a bad idea. And not only is her mom adopting a baby, but the pregnant teenager is going to live with them for the duration of her pregnancy.

Mandy is not only intruding on Jill’s space during her time of grieving, but her past is such a blank that Jill smells a fraud. In order to protect her family, Jill is out to prove that her mom is wrong, and Mandy doesn’t belong.

Both Jill and Mandy’s stories are incredibly heartbreaking in different ways. When readers first meet Jill, she is deeply grief stricken by the loss of her father in a car accident. She has pushed away her friends and family, and her boyfriend, Dylan. Her life is one of prickles, thorns, and sarcasm.

Mandy is different in that she is so desperate for love that she will take it wherever she can get it. On the train to Colorado to meet Jill and her mother, she meets a middle-aged man, and immediately tries to create some type of relationship (much to his embarrassment). She is naive, and emotionally broken.

Sara Zarr’s novel is beautiful and poignant. Readers will immediately find a kindred spirit in either Jill or Mandy, and can even find some of both within their inner teenage soul. The wonderful character development through dual perspectives allows the reader to have a deep connection with each character in the story. Beyond the characters, “How to Save a Life” has a rich plot-line with a highly satisfying ending.

“How to Save a Life” is a story of discovering family, and moving on from intense grief, and the very significant life changes that it creates. Fans of Zarr will not be disappointed with this novel and will cherish its sweet story just as much or more as her previous works.

Due to the nature of the story (namely teen pregnancy), there is some sexual content that may be unsuitable for younger readers.


What: Sara Zarr, author panel Q&A

When: Wednesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m.

Where: West Valley Library, 2880 W. 3650 South, West Valley City

Web: www.utahhumanities.org

Also ...

What: Sara Zarr launch party, book signing

When: Thursday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Also ...

What: Sara Zarr book signing

When: Saturday, Oct. 22, 1 p.m.

Where: Costco, 1818 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City

Emily is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room online at emilysreadingroom.com, which is dedicated to promoting a love of young adult fiction.