I picked up Sweethearts by Sara Zarr because I was looking for a good YA novel to read and I know some of my blog friends had mentioned this book and liked it. I wasn’t disappointed.
“Some memories are slippery. There are things I want to remember about Cameron Quick that I can’t entirely, like the pajamas he wore when he used to sleep over, and his favorite cereal, or how it felt to hold his hand as we walked home from third grade. I want to remember exactly how we became friends in the first place, a definite starting line that I can visit again and again. He’s a story I want to know from page one.”
High school senior Jenna is pretty and popular and seems to be the girl all other girls aspire to be but Jenna wasn’t always part of the in crowd. Most of her childhood she was simply Jennifer, an over-weight, self-conscious, shy girl who was always pushed around by her classmates.
The only sweet memories Jenna has of her childhood are of her best friend Cameron Quick, another youngster who was also an outcast and had a difficult family life. Soon after Cameron moves away Jenna learns that Cameron has died and she’s devastated at losing her only friend.
Time works to heal her wounds and her family life also becomes more stable as her mom marries and she transfers to a new school where she reinvents herself. What Jenna never imagined though was that Cameron would one day walk back into her life.
Jenna and Cameron re-establish their relationship and work to clear up what had happened since they were little and Cameron disappeared. Throughout the story we are given glimpses into their troubled childhood and specifically one incident that marked the two for life.
I was expecting a much lighter novel and was really struck by the sadness and confusion that Jenna expresses throughout the novel. On the one hand she’s happy to have Cameron back but she’s also changed a lot and has a new life. How does one go back and face what one was before?
I believed Jenna when she expressed doubt, anger, happiness and it all rang true for me. And, most importantly without giving away the ending I found it very satisfying. There are no easy resolutions and no fantasies. A troubled childhood is something that can’t be glossed over but one can understand the power of reconciliation in helping to move forward.