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How to Save a Life Audiobook, by Sara Zarr Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Sara Zarr Narrator: Ariadne Meyers, Cassandra Morris Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9780307968715
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,339 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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 Kalinowski 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?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Well-cast dual narration enhances the emotional depths of this story.”


  • “Zarr…crafts intimate and authentic portraits of two vulnerable teens struggling to cope with uncertain futures…Their slow, cautious efforts to build trust and better understand the meaning of family are expressed with the deepest compassion and kindness.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Filled with so many frustrations, so many dilemmas needing reasonable solutions, and so much hope and faith in the midst of sadness, Zarr’s novel is a rich tapestry of love and survival that will resonate with even the most cynical.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “The imperfection of the characters and the uniqueness of their situations come together in a compulsively readable novel. Zarr has established herself as an author who must not be missed.”

    VOYA (starred review)

  • A 2011 Publishers Weekly Best Book: Children's Fiction
  • A 2012 ALA Top Book for Teens Nominee
  • A 2014 Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 J | 2/20/2014

    " This read has all the marks of realism through it. I totally loved this book because I fell in love with the characters for their passion, strength, wisdom beyond years, and complexity. The story is given a real identity as a young girl is asked to make adult ethical choices regarding her future. Mandy probes into what happens to those young people that are not given the opportunity to have a slice of the "American Pie" because it has been taken away from them by the very ones that should love and protect them. I fell in love with Mandy because of her strength, discernment, and tenderness. She is a self-made woman that has been dealt a bad hand, but refuses to let it stop her from becoming the person she wants to be. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hollie | 2/18/2014

    " If you like Sarah Dessen, then try books by Sara Zarr. A good story of loss, finding oneself, and discovering what's important in life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lonna | 2/11/2014

    " Fabulous story about a grief-stricken girl and her mom, who decides to adopt a baby after the accidental death of her husband.Mandy, the abused teen mom who wants to give up her child for adoption is complicated, too. Told from 2 teen perspectives. Wholly satisfying and moving story with believable characters going through life-changing events. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dolores | 1/28/2014

    " Heartbreaking and uplifting, sweet and bittersweet, and for anyone who has lost a parent-a book that will speak to you. I lost my father at 17 and this book brought back so many emotions I thought I had long buried and forgotten. Zarr really nails it. Memorable characters and a beautiful story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 1/24/2014

    " This was very different than I expected but still amazing. I liked the dual narration. Jill was honest and real. Her internal dialogue was heartbreaking seeing what she wanted to say but couldn't. Mandy was mysterious and niave all at once. It took me a while to trust her. But as I learned more, I felt for her. I loved the character of Ravi. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chelsey | 1/10/2014

    " I recommend this book to anyone who like teenage girl books. It is a really good book that shows a girl trying to get over her old life and deal with her new one and the tasks and people that come along with it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Angela | 11/16/2013

    " I really enjoyed this story. I listened to it as an audiobook and enjoyed the change in point of view between the two main characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 10/30/2013

    " Zarr does what (I think) is another wonderful job at writing an emotionally driven novel. Seen through the eyes of two young girls, the alternate voices definately brought another layer to the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anita | 10/9/2013

    " Well written and believable from all perspectives. Zarr is right on with the complicated emotions presented in this heartfelt story! Great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marge | 9/13/2013

    " I was hooked from the beginning. Really care about the characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 6/5/2013

    " This is a beautiful story about what it means to be a daughter, a sister, and a mother. A definate must read for women of all ages. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Audrey | 3/16/2013

    " I liked this book a lot more than Zarr's A Story of a Girl. I think the characters were more dynamic and interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily | 1/22/2013

    " I enjoyed this book. It was sad but sweet and the ending had a great little twist that made me like it even more! Having two main characters created more depth and feeling to the story and I felt for both girls. Definitely a good read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim | 12/1/2012

    " I was uncomfortable with some of the language and content, but this was one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nowheregirl | 9/17/2012

    " of all the Sara Zarr novels i've read, this was the hardest to get into. so i put it on hold....then today i tried it again and this time i actually finished it. in a few hours, if you can believe that. yes its that good :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Janet | 4/23/2012

    " At first I didn't think the premise of this book was realistic; widow with daughter who is senior in high school adopts a baby? But, I did enjoy the book and really liked the characters. "

About the Author

Sara Zarr was raised in San Francisco, California, and now lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the author of How to Save a Life, What We Lost, Sweethearts, and the National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl.

About the Narrators

Ariadne Meyers, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1969. She began an acting career at twelve, with her role as Al Pacino’s stepdaughter in Author! Author! Her most famous role to date is that of “Emma Jane McCardle,” which she portrayed on the 1980s sitcom Kate & Allie for six years. In 1991, she graduated from Yale with honors and a double major in philosophy and theater arts.

Cassandra Morris has received critical acclaim for her voice-over work from Publishers Weekly and AudioFile magazine, earning a dozen Earphones Awards and twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award for best narration. Her voice has also been heard on television in commercial campaigns and numerous Nickelodeon and Disney products. She is the voice of many cartoon characters, including Leo and Luna in Yu-Gi-Oh, Carrie in Barbie: A Fairy Secret, Nathan in Pokémon, and Lola in Angelo Rules.