Sweethearts by Sara Zarr: Book Review

Sweethearts by Sara ZarrSWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr Book Review
Publication Date: February 1st 2008 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: – Acceptable |

Book Summary: 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.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr Book Review Overview:

  • A character-driven contemporary with a relatable protagonist
  • Wish that the conclusion had been more satisfying
  • Utterly heart-breaking

SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr is a purely character-driven novel centered around Jenna and her mysterious and troubled past with the new boy, Cam. Growing up, Jennifer Harris was the least popular girl at school. Mercilessly teased by bullies, her only friend was Cam. But Cam suddenly disappears one day and Jennifer is left with no explanation. When she reaches high school, Jennifer reinvents herself as Jenna: sweet, popular, someone that everyone just wants to be friends with. But when Cam comes back as the new boy in school, Jenna struggles to keep the past where it should be: behind her.

I love how Zarr skillfully weaves the past with the present. With each chapter set in the past, Zarr gives only a hint of the full story. Her technique will have you flipping the pages until you find out what it is that happened during Jenna’s 9th birthday.

Jenna is an easily relatable character. My heart broke for her as I read the scenes in which she was bullied when she was younger. Jenna struggles with her identity throughout the entire book. She strives to meet everyone’s expectations to get their approval. Jenna’s worst fear is to become that lonely unpopular girl that she once was, and her fear prevents her from being herself. It pained me to see her hide her true self from others.

When it came to Cam, I still felt unsatisfied with his character at the book’s conclusion. He came a long way since he and Jenna had been little, but we really only get a glimpse of his character in SWEETHEARTS. There is still a lot more that we don’t know about him and I wish that he had opened up a little bit more with Jenna.

Above all, SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr is a novel on friendship – not romance. The relationship between Jenna and Cam is powerful and rare. Zarr captures it beautifully in the pages of SWEETHEARTS.

Let me tell you this: SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr is heartbreaking. Don’t expect a Happily Ever After. I wish I got that warning.

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About the Author

Sara ZarrSara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009) and How to Save a Life. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain, and several anthologies. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband.

Find the Author

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