I feel like I need to start out saying that Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr is far and away one of the most popular books in my classroom library. One girl reads it at the beginning of the school year, and it passes from student to student and doesn't return to the shelf until I beg for it in June. So I hoped that perhaps How to Save a Life would measure up, because although I keep them reading when they come to me after reading Story of a Girl and ask, "Do you have any other books like that?"--I know that there is nothing that I give them that they will love as much. I know that because I loved Story of a Girl that way, too.
And I am happy to say that How to Save a Life measures up. In fact, (although Story of a Girl was signed out last week so I will not see it again for a while) I am looking forward to re-reading Story of a Girl because I might...MIGHT...just like How to Save a Life even more.
So the story...Mandy is pregnant, and Jill's mother wants to adopt her baby as a way of coping with the unexpected death of her husband. Jill is not happy about her mother's plan. That's how it begins. Mandy and Jill take turns narrating the chapters, and I loved getting to know each of them--and by the end of the book, I loved each of them despite all their flaws. What I love most about this book is that Mandy comes from a terrible family situation, and Jill (up to her father's death) comes from a wonderful family situation, they are both equally broken. The beauty of the book is that we get to see them both become whole.
I also read Small Persons with Wings (they hate to be called fairies) by Ellen Booraem. This wonderful book for younger readers combined every story I remember from my childhood, as well as my imaginary friend Ugly Dugly. (OK, it didn't actually include MY Ugly Dugly, but it did remind me of him...although after he disappeared, I was left with a little rubber doll of his likeness, not a china figurine.) My grandmother's stories of pixies, who made mischief while we weren't looking, and of brownies, who cleaned our messes while we slept, came vividly back to me in the pages of this book, although there were no pixies or brownies (specifically) within the story. I don't read many books for younger readers, but this one came highly recommended, and I am so glad I picked it up.