How to Save a Life

Order a signed copy from the official book store of Sara Zarr, The King’s English

Published October 2011


  • Utah Book Award Winner
  • ALA 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
  • A Los Angeles Public Library Best Book of 2011
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Council 2012 Children’s Choice
  • Guardian Teen Book Club pick


  • “…this multilayered, complex story of life, death, and the meaning of family will simultaneously distress and gratify.
    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 readers.” – Booklist, starred review
  • “…Zarr delivers a moving, funny, and emotionally honest story about three women whose understanding of family, and of themselves, shifts in profound ways.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review / Best Books of 2011
  • “Jill’s cynicism is the perfect counterpart to Mandy’s hopeful naiveté. Likewise, Mandy’s vulnerability highlights Jill’s tough independence. Woven together from two simple
    threads, the resulting tapestry is as beautiful as it is real. A story that will resonate beyond its final page.” – Kirkus, starred review
  • “Zarr masterfully gives each girl a distinctive voice, allowing the reader to empathize with both
    Jill’s self-destructive rage and Mandy’s delusional fantasies. …the imperfection of the characters and the uniqueness of their situations come together in a compulsively readable novel.” – VOYA, starred review
  • “Another heavy-hitting page-turner from Zarr…it’s a must-read.” – School Library Journal, starred review / SLJ Best Book of 2011
  • “The depth of characterization is exceptional, and the ending is surprising but satisfying, making for a rewarding read.” Horn Book
  • “Characterization is superlative…this is the story of people figuring out how to be a family after their old family has been shattered, making this a compelling human drama to which many readers will relate.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
  • “Zarr insists that her characters will find their own complicated way; she writes life as it is, not novels of how we wish things could be and yet again the messiness of the American family is exposed for her readers to love and linger over.” Bookslut
  • “Readers will immediately find a kindred spirit in either Jill or Mandy, and can even find some of both within their inner teenage soul. The wonderful character development through dual perspectives allows the reader to have a deep connection with each character in the story.” – Deseret News
  • “I loved this book. [Zarr’s books are] filled with flawed, vulnerable, yet still somehow hopeful/doing-the-best-they-can people.” – On the Verge blog
  • “Recommended for: People who are looking for immaculately written, contemporary YA fiction. People who are looking for their mirror image. People who love train journeys. People who like bad Mexican food and pancakes. People who would like to go on a stakeout with a tall, dark, stranger. Coffee not included.” – Wear the Old Coat blog
  • “I could probably write a review for this that just says, “You guys, you have to read this. Please please read this.” And you would, and would agree with me that this book is amazing, and that Sara Zarr should be crowned Queen of All of the Things.”Swoontini blog

About the book:

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.

Order a signed copy from The King’s English (If you’d like it personalized, let them know!)


  • Hardcover, Ebook, Audiobook, Paperback
  • Foreign editions (to come): UK, Brazil