How to Save a Life by Eva Carter – eARC Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

In this heartfelt love story, three friends find out what it really means to save someone.

Kerry Smith is going to save lives–and so is her best friend, Tim Palmer. After years of working towards medical school, they are about to sit for their entrance exams. But on the eve of the new millennium, a classmate goes into cardiac arrest, changing everything.

For nearly eighteen minutes, rising soccer star Joel Greenaway is dead. For nearly eighteen minutes, Kerry performs CPR on her long-time crush. And for nearly eighteen minutes, Tim is too shocked to help. And though they don’t yet know it, those eighteen minutes will change the next eighteen years of their lives.

Because as it turns out, saving a life doesn’t always guarantee a happy ending.

As each struggles to move on from the events of that fateful New Year’s Eve, their lives can’t seem to stop colliding year after year.

My Review

After a few chapters of this book I opened up the NetGalley website to see what the average rating was. From 46 members it was apparently five stars.
And well… I was shocked. Because I just could not get on board with this book at all. Even from the earliest chapters I just disliked everything….
But I was also heartened. Because I thought okay, a five star average is great. It means this book MUST get better….

Eh no…

No it did not. Not for me at any rate!

I’ve never taken such a visceral dislike to a fictional character before but the character of Tim…. HATED him. So much that it felt painful reading the chapters from his point of view…

I suppose I should back up a second and intro the main characters and basic storyline.

The book unfolds over a timeline of eighteen years and gives us three points of view from three main characters. Over these years these three characters, Joel, Tim, and Kerry, form the basis of a love triangle, and the plot basically follows the drama of their lives and especially focuses on the question of who will end up with Kerry?

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999 when popular teenager and all round athletic god Joel drops in the middle of a casual football game with his friends. Fellow teenager and schoolmate Kerry immediately runs over to begin first aid while her friend Tim freezes. Both Kerry and Tim are trained in first aid and have applied to study medicine at uni the following year so it’s a bit of a shock when Tim just freezes. But Kerry stays calm and collected and puts every fibre of her being into keeping Joel alive until the emergency services show up. As Kerry begins to tire from the physical efforts of CPR Tim finally unfreezes and begins to help…. etc etc etc Joel doesn’t die but needs serious surgery and his dreams of playing footie crash and burn. And meanwhile Tim plays up his involvement in the saving of Joel and basically twists Kerry’s arm into lying about what really happened ….

And when I say twist I mean manipulates. AND I HATED HIM FOR IT! This boy, who is supposedly Kerry’s best friend AND HAS ROMANTIC FEELINGS FOR HER just craps all over her accomplishments because oh boo hoo I can’t be seen to be weak… I know, I know… there was backstory that his life was hard because he was his mother’s carer and she basically put a lot of pressure on his shoulders to succeed … but nah…. don’t like it when someone lies like he does just so he can have all the glory. So I hated him. Hated hated hated. And could never get past this hate for his character throughout the whole book. I felt he never took responsibility for the impact those particular actions had on Kerry …

But Tim wasn’t the only character that I had feelings of dislike towards… I didn’t like Joel either. I know… the whole point of the book is how these characters all had to spend YEARS and I mean YEARS overcoming their traumas before they could be happy, stable people… but ughhh he too was a right tosser to Kerry. They had a very passionate (and very secret because Kerry couldn’t hurt Tim’s feelings *eye roll*) relationship in the months immediately after Joel’s brush with death, and they seemingly fell very much in love… until Joel crapped all over it and broke Kerry’s heart in a the most awful, callous fashion…. AND YET SHE HARBOURED FEELINGS FOR HIM FOR THE REST OF THE BOOK???

So I didn’t like Tim because he was selfish.
I didn’t like Joel because he tried to play martyr and be all oh I’m not worthy of Kerry but really was just a git to her.
Therefore all my eggs in this bookish basket were soon placed with Kerry. I was rooting for her to find happiness… with neither guy!!!

So the book follows their lives over the course of the following eighteen years and we see the repercussions that the initial New Year’s Night rescue had on the lives of each of the characters.

And for me I felt the book was just one overly dramatic event after another. The characters became more and more whiny and hateful; they just did terrible things to each other, and I found it impossible to root for any of them to find their happy ever after. Oh yes, I also ended up hating Kerry by the book’s finish because she just turned into such an abrasive character.

And it’s difficult for me to explain why it was that I couldn’t accept that these were damaged people who had experienced deep trauma in their lives which was causing them to act out in such dreadful fashion… but I shall try.

I think I’m gonna have to lay blame for my dislike of this novel squarely at the author’s feet. For not finding that balance in creating heart and warmth within this story. To me it just felt like drama after drama after drama after drama after drama!!!

I get why certain characters, for example, ended up using drugs … but I needed to feel their emotional pain. To me there was A LOT of telling in this book. I was told about the various character’s personal traumas but I didn’t feel any empathy with them…

And this lack of empathy stemmed from two things that are interlinked on this occasion: from narrative style and from hating a main character so early on.

I’m not used to not enjoying stories about unlikeable characters. I find unlikeable human characteristics to be fascinating to read about as I think it makes fictional characters feel more authentic. Because no human is perfect. We all have our flaws… but yet the flaws of these characters were just too much for me to deal with because they weren’t tempered with nuance and subtlety. The choice of narrative style meant that a long timeline was squashed into less than 500 pages which wasn’t enough. Key happier events in these characters’ lives were brushed through. Instead, this book just rammed ahead full speed with its endless dramas and ultimately was exhausting to read.

I know people will question why I chose to finish this novel when I disliked it from such an early stage. And I guess it’s because of that five star average rating from 46 NetGalley members. I didn’t want to be the odd one out that couldn’t find merit to these characters and their story… but sadly it was never to be for me. We all can’t like the same things it seems and ultimately this book just wasn’t to my personal taste.

*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*

Publishing 27th May 2021, Pan Macmillan

3 thoughts on “How to Save a Life by Eva Carter – eARC Book Review

  1. Woah, yikes! Staying well away from this one then… Just reading about these characters here already makes me 100% sure that I will dislike them, and it’s so hard to enjoy a book when you struggle to get on board with any of the characters! Really great review, Emer!


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