Originally published: 27 May 2021 (Hardback); 19 April 2021 (eBook)
Author: Eva Carter
Published by: Mantle Books
Length: 480 pages
Reading dates: 28-31 March 2021
Sometimes saving a life is only the start of the story . . .
It’s nearly midnight on the eve of the millennium when eighteen-year-old Joel’s heart stops. A school friend, Kerry, performs CPR for almost twenty exhausting minutes, ultimately saving Joel’s life, while her best friend Tim freezes, unable to help.
That moment of life and death changes the course of all three lives over the next two decades: each time Kerry, Joel and Tim believe they’ve found love, discovered their vocation, or simply moved on, their lives collide again.
. . . Because bravery isn’t just about life or death decisions; it’s also about how to keep on living afterwards.
Spanning a time period of almost 20 years, How to Save a Life follows three teenagers through their lives after the traumatic events on 31st December 2019. Kerry and Tim are best friends, Living near each other, they have been friends since children, are both members of the St John Ambulance and both want to become doctors. Kerry has never had a boyfriend and is sure Tim might kiss her at midnight but she isn’t sure she fancies him. When popular kid, and Kerry’s secret crush Joel, collapses playing football, Kerry immediately springs into action and starts performing CPR. She essentially keeps him alive until the ambulance arrives to shock Joel back to life. Tim initially freezes leaving Kerry to bear the responsibility for Joel but his instincts kick in just before the ambulance arrives, leading people to believe that he was the one who saved Joel.
Over the next 20 years, the story follows Kerry, Tim and Joel. Joel struggles with his new found health problems, especially as he wanted to be a professional footballer and he and Kerry become close – they both understand the trauma of what happened. But when Joel realises his dream of being a footballer will never happen he cuts Kerry out of his life. Devastated, she fails to get the grades she needs for medical school, while Tim succeeds and follows his dream.
I loved this story. Initially when I realised it was almost 500 pages long, I did wonder if it was going to be too long but I needn’t of worried as I’d have quite happily kept reading about the three friends for much longer! Told from each character’s point of view, we see their good and bad points. Joel is lost after he is saved and ends up spiralling into addiction and has a death wish. Tim feels guilty for taking the credit for saving Joel’s life and is never sure of his vocation to be a doctor and makes some dubious decisions. Kerry was my favourite character – vulnerable yet strong. I really wanted to see her succeed and be happy.
I loved how the 3 of their lives kept colliding – some misunderstandings along the way that were realistic. Being local to Brighton, I was able to vividly picture in my head the locations mentioned and a lot of us in the readalong I took part in loved the nostalgia of being transported back to the early 2000s!
I’ve never really thought of the trauma before of what it must be like to hold someone’s life in your hands. I’d always thought that if you saved someone, it would just be OK and you’d get on with your life happy to have helped. But the shock of having to save someone, knowing you might have failed and have to live with the guilt of them dying is something that was really brought across well in this book. And the trauma of finding out at 18 you died and have to live with a dangerous medical condition was also brought across well.
The author has personal experience of this. In 2013 her partner’s heart stopped and she had to do CPR. Chances of survival even with CPR are low but luckily he survived and this event inspired Eva to write this book. The book is divided into sections and at the beginning of each section, it explains how to do CPR and the use of a defibrillator.
I really enjoyed How to Save a Life. It gave me a lot to think about.
Thank you to Mantle Books and Book Break UK for my gifted proof copy for review as part of the Instagram readalong. Check out the hashtag #htsalreadalong to see what others thought!
About the author:
I’m the bestselling author of more than 20 novels and non-fiction books, under my own name and the pseudonyms Kate Helm and Eva Carter.
I’ve written romantic comedy (The Secret Shopper’s Revenge), psychological thrillers (The House Share), and diet/recipe books (The 5:2 Diet Book). Before becoming an author, I worked as a TV news correspondent and led a team developing and pitching new programmes and formats for the BBC. My first book for writers, Pitch Power, was published in 2019. I also wrote the TV drama script for the 2006 BBC ONE docu-drama, Angel of Death: The Story of Beverley Allitt.
My next novel, How to Save a Life, is an epic love story set over two decades and will be published under the name Eva Carter in 2021. I live in Brighton with my partner, plus a shaggy terrier and a sleek tabby cat.