Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

sweethearts by sara zarr

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another’s only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she’s lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she’s popular, happy, and dating, everything “Jennifer” couldn’t be—but she still can’t shake the memory of her long-lost friend.

When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

From the National Book Award nominated author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Well, school is ending and kids are going onto new grades, new school levels, so I thought I would review a book about letting go and moving on with life–even with unfinished business.

Most YA and MG novels deal with this topic, but not in the way that Zarr does. From the beginning, SWEETHEARTS is a pretty bittersweet novel. Absolutely nothing works out in this novel, and that’s part of it’s charm. It’s also part of the reason why I didn’t like this novel.

Jennifer is a pitiable heroine. She went through a lot of trauma as a child, but is constantly trying to get over it in her everyday life. I loved the way she transformed in this story, only to discover that it didn’t work out for her. She goes through a lot of character development in SWEETHEARTS, even if it isn’t as apparent as some novels. I was frustrated time and time again by the fact that she not only sustains her relationship with Ethan when she knows it won’t work out, but tries to lie to everyone–including herself–about how things have changed since Cameron came back. Due to Jennifer’s actions, a lot more people are hurt than was at all necessary.

Other than some of Jennifer’s choices and the way that they were executed, Cameron was the only disappointment. All of the other characters were very well carried out, but Cameron seemed a little bit off. I can kind of understand how his past would make him a little drawn in, but I felt like I didn’t see enough of Cameron throughout this novel. He basically comes in, completely changes Jennifer’s life and in the entire process shows little to no emotion.

In terms of characters though, Zarr did a fantastic job with creating her supporting cast. I thought that Ethan, Jennifer’s boyfriend, was a little bland, but I loved seeing the other characters that Jennifer had gotten to know. This book really is about relationships, and the way that Zarr melts together the meanings and relationships between each of the characters was really something to see.

The end of middle school and the beginning of high school is a time when people are really split apart for the first time, and so I would say that this is a good book for middle schoolers in that sense. It’s about how the people you love never really leave you, but it still hurts. SWEETHEARTS is, in a word, wholly bittersweet. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend it to middle schoolers, but maybe high school and older. However, for people needing a read like this, it’s perfect. I loved the way that Zarr executed this novel, even if not all of it was perfect, and SWEETHEARTS stands out among other novels of this type. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 217


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