Saturday, June 23, 2012
How to Save a Life (review)
When I first Started How to Save A Life I was very unsure. When we first meet Mandy Kalinowski, a pregnant teenager mentally younger than her years, trained by her mom in "how to get a man" and frankly weird, I didn't know if I could tolerate her for a whole book. She's socially awkward and has the worst conversation skills. Reading her interactions in the first chapters is almost painful.
Mandy was an unplanned, unwanted baby. She wants something better for her child. That's why she runs away to Colorado to give her baby to recent-widow Robin MacSweeney. There we meet our second protagonist, Jill, Robin's teenage daughter. For entirely different reason Jill is also unlikable. She's so angry and snippy. It's easy to understand why. The sudden death of her father is bound to have a huge impact on her personality, but that doesn't make her someone I want to spend much time with.
Mandy starts to experience a life and a family she's never had, bonding with Robin. She starts dreading the day her baby will be born and she has to leave. It's heartbreaking to read as Mandy realizes that not only does she want a better life for her baby; she wants a better life for herself.
Meanwhile, Jill goes through the motions of life, working at the bookstore and dating her on-again off-again boyfriend Dylan. Things start to change for Jill after a chance encounter with Ravi, an old acquaintance from high school who helps Jill remember herself.
Mandy and Jill's storyline run on different courses, not quite parrallel, but both growing and changing. Near the end the stories converge. A book about teen pregnancy and struggling with a parents death, could have easily have been melodramatic. Somehow, How to Save A Life, soars above it's basic plot and becomes something more. It's wonderful, heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. It captures a little poignant slice of life realistically. The simple truthful writing style is something few authors master.
I listened to this on audiobook and the narrators were superb, especially the actress who portray Mandy. Very recommended.