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Stuff for the Teen Age

Family Problems, Redefined: "How to Save a Life" by Sara Zarr


Jill’s father is gone, and her mother isn’t making sense anymore.

When Jill’s father died, it broke their family into pieces.

Then Jill’s mother decided to adopt a baby from an unwed teenager.

That’s the part that doesn’t make sense.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr is a story told in two voices. Chapters alternate between the point of view of two very different teenage girls, Jill and Mandy.

Jill is angry and upset about a lot of things — her father’s death, her job, her relationship with her boyfriend Dylan, and the way her girlfriends have been acting ever since her father died. When she finds out that her mother has contacted a pregnant teenager and made an arrangement to adopt this girl’s baby when it’s born, Jill is even more upset.

Mandy is that pregnant teenager, and while she does have her own reasons for being angry, she’s much better than Jill at hiding her feelings. Mandy is keeping a lot of secrets — about when she got pregnant, about why she left home, and about something she stole before she left. Mandy wants to have friends and she wants to be loved. But from the moment she gets off the train and meets Jill, she knows that Jill hates her and that she's facing an uphill battle.

This is the story of two families with problems, two girls with secrets, and the friends who try to support them and fix their broken edges.


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