Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

YA A to Z: Sara Zarr

Photo credit: Jeffrey Overstreet

Why I chose Sara Zarr:

I’m a character-driven reader, and Sara Zarr excels in creating interesting characters who lead rich inner lives. Her characters aren’t always likable (and who cares about that anyway?), but they’re always well-drawn, realistic, and flawed. I often finish a novel by Zarr and think how so many pieces of the story were quietly beautiful, a description that may be meaningless if you haven’t read Zarr’s books, but hopefully will resonate for those who have. While I have greatly enjoyed all of her books, it’s How to Save a Life that stands out to me. Zarr tells the story of two teenage girls—Jill, whose mother is going to adopt a baby in the wake of Jill’s father’s death, and Mandy, the pregnant teen whose baby Jill’s mother plans to adopt. Told in alternating chapters, the girls reveal themselves to be angry, confused, hopeful, and vulnerable as they both navigate an uncertain time in their lives. It was this powerful and heart-wrenching book that ensured I would be reading anything else Zarr would write.


Brief biography (from her website):

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, which the New York Times called “an elegant novel.” Her sixth, a collaborative novel with Tara Altebrando, came out December 2013. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her books have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library and Los Angeles Public Library, and have been translated into many languages. In 2010, she served as a judge for the National Book Award. She has written essays and creative nonfiction for ImageHunger Mountain online, and Response as well as for several anthologies, and has been a regular contributor to Image‘s daily Good Letters blog on faith, life, and culture. As of summer 2013, she’s a member of the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Sara also hosts the This Creative Life podcast. She is the current Salt Lake City Literary Death Match Champion. Born in Cleveland and raised in San Francisco, she currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband,



Story of a Girl (2007)

Sweethearts (2008)

Once Was Lost (2009) (Republished as What We Lost in 2013)

How to Save a Life (2011)

The Lucy Variations (2013)

Roomies co-written with Tara Altebrando (2013)


Find Sara Zarr online:





If you like Sara Zarr check out these authors:

Donna Freitas, Jo Knowles, Leila Sales, Siobhan Vivian, Kate Bassett, Sara Ockler


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