How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr
From the jacket: “Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends — everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one. Mandy Kalinowsky understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted — to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?”
My take: Mandy is pregnant and looking to give her child up for adoption. Jill’s recently widowed mom, Robin, is looking to adopt a baby, and an open-adoption website helps them find each other. Robin invites Mandy to move in with them while they wait for the baby’s arrival — two decisions that cause Jill, still reeling from her dad’s death, to flip out.
It’s like her mother has become someone Jill doesn’t even recognize. Jill has enough to worry about without a pregnant stranger living in her house and without her mother making what seems like a sudden and insane life decision: Jill’s about to graduate from high school, but while she knows she doesn’t want to head to college right away, she’s not sure what she does want to do.
She suspects, though, that at least the short term answer may involve a boy — either her reliable on-again, off-again boyfriend Dylan or Ravi, the sympathetic anti-fraud manager who works in the corporate office of her after-school bookstore job and who, it turns out, attended high school with her briefly.
Meanwhile, Mandy has moved into a house that’s way nicer than the ones she grew up in. Robin is far kinder to her than her own mother had been, and she can see that the baby she’s bearing will have the childhood she never did. Sure, she might have glossed over a few things to make the story work out better, but she’s sure it will be for the best. Now if she could only figure out what her own happy ending might look like.
Told in alternating chapters by two teenage girls, this novel is about figuring out what you want out of your own life and what makes a family. You’ll end up caring about all of the characters — and hoping that each of them can find their path forward.
Personally, I found it such a compelling read that I had to stay up late to finish it just to find out.