Publication Date: February 1st 2008
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.
I expected to like Sweethearts a lot. I thought it would be a super-cute romance. But it’s an hour after reading, and I’m in shock. This is a book that delves much deeper than romance. It’s a book that stays with you and demands that you think about it afterwards.
It’s very hard for me to tell you much of what happens in Sweethearts without spoiling things, but suffice to say that each and every character, from Jenna to Cameron to Estelle the fish has an important role to play in this novel – and none of them are archetypes. They’re all so real and so complex that I feel bad for even thinking that I disliked some of the characters. Because even the ones who made mistakes are just learning about themselves and trying to figure things out in a really imperfect world.
Zarr’s writing is skillful and perfect. Every single word was chosen with care. Every image was nuanced and rendered perfectly, without cliche. The writing was so seamless and the characters so real and the plotting so neatly done that I barely noticed that I was reading. I was there with Jenna and Cameron – in fact, I really felt I was Jenna.
Reading Sweethearts was one of the most bittersweet moments I’ve had reading YA. Having had friends that hold special places in my heart at very particular moments of my life, I felt very close to Jenna. I know how it feels to lose a friend who meant a lot. I know how it feels to try to contact them without a response back. I know how it feels to have to try to put that behind you. And believe me, I’m still trying.
There are people who stay with you for the rest of your life, and then there are the books that describe those people. Sweethearts is a book that I won’t soon forget.
(Instead of Bonuses, today you get…more review/discussion with SPOILERS! Because I really, really have to talk about a few things)
What I thought was really interesting about this book was that there were no easy answers to anything. The helplessness of the situation that Cameron’s in, and how Jenna and her mother and Alan were struggling to try to sort things out…that was, for me, the hardest and most rewarding part of the book. I’m still asking myself the questions that Jenna and her parents asked: whose responsibility is it to take care of a person who is legally able to take care of himself, but doesn’t want help when he needs it? Was Cameron a good or bad friend? Was he more? Was he less?
I also liked that there wasn’t an easy answer to who Jenna was in the end. She didn’t necessarily revert back to being Jennifer after Cameron left. I liked that the parts of her that were Jenna – that she thought were strong and not really herself – were just another part of her personality that she was owning by the end.
By the way, in the back of my library copy, a couple of teens jotted down some of their thoughts. I’m not usually a fan of people defacing library books, but I thought this was worth sharing.
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End of Spoilers
The Final Word
This is one of the most moving, and deeply frustrating books I’ve ever read. I’m at a loss for words because Sweethearts is what contemporary YA is all about to me – the magic of true love, and that bittersweet, not-perfect world feeling of a people painfully changing and uncovering what matters about themselves and the world.