How to Save a Life

How to Save a Life (unabr.). 8 CDs. 9:54 hrs. Prod. by Listening Library. Dist. by Listening Library/Books on Tape. 2012. ISBN 978-0-307-96872-7. $60
RedReviewStarGr 8 Up—Sara Zarr delivers a touching, heartfelt tale (Little, Brown, 2011) of love, acceptance, and healing. Reeling from her father's death nearly a year earlier, Jill MacSweeney hides her intense grief behind a wall of anger that has isolated her from friends and family. Then Jill's mom decides to adopt a baby from Mandy, a pregnant teen she met online. Mandy will be staying with the MacSweeneys until the baby is born. Jill is less than thrilled. Meanwhile, Mandy struggles with the scars of her own mother's neglect and worries that the baby might be a result of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. Can these two very different girls overcome their individual doubts and learn to accept their situations—and each other—so that they can heal from their painful pasts and move on to brighter futures? Although the ending wraps up a bit too neatly, this is a beautiful and worthwhile listen. Told in alternating chapters and narrated to perfection by Ariadne Meyers and Cassandra Morris, Zarr has created an exceptional story highlighted by outstanding character development. Initially, Mandy comes across as vain, more than a little creepy, and seems far younger than her 18 years—despite the hard life she's experienced. Jill, at first, is closed-off, angry, and difficult to like. As the story progresses, listeners will gain a profound understanding of both girls and grow to love them in spite of their faults and quirks. Collections will benefit from the addition of this extraordinary audiobook.—Alissa LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI

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