Book review: How To Save A Life

How To Save A Life

Eva Carter


Reviewed by: Chantel Erfort

On the eve of the millennium, Joel Greenaway, a popular, rising star in school sports, suffers cardiac arrest and collapses at death’s door.

Not far off are Kerry Smith and Tim Palmer, best friends who have dreams of going to medical school and becoming doctors.

Having already immersed themselves in what it will take to pass the intense entrance exams, this is a moment both of them have been preparing for.

However, when the moment of truth arrives Tim freezes and it is Kerry who takes over, performing CPR for more than 18 minutes before she gets the heart of her secret crush going again and is able to hand him over to the professionals.

The book, told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of each of the main protagonists, details a love- and life-story spanning 18 years and how those 18 minutes on the sports field changed the lives of those involved.

Eva Carter, the pen name of journalist and non-fiction writer Kate Harrison, was reportedly inspired to write this book after performing CPR on her partner.

And if this is true, it certainly shines through in the vivid and sensitive nature she tells this story and describes the different trauma each of the protagonists has to deal with as a result of Joel’s cardiac arrest.

While Joel has been given a second chance at life, he feels robbed of a potential career in sport. And because Kerry lies to cover up Tim’s inability to act when it mattered most, she ends up playing second fiddle in what should be her own tale of heroism. Then there’s Tim who follows through with his plans to go to med school, but finds himself questioning whether what he spent his life working for and wanting, is really what he wants.

While I found some parts of the story and the decisions made by the characters quite frustrating, I reminded myself that the heroes of this story were teens and that while I had the benefit of years’ more experience, they were still figuring things out as they went along.

After many twists and turns, however, the story has a satisfying ending.

While difficult topics like death, drug abuse and life choices are central to this story, I found it to be an easy, thoroughly enjoyable read.