by Sara Zarr
The Short Story
As a child, Jennifer had the kind of life no one would want - bullies, shoplifting, binge-eating, and feeling alone in the world . . . if not for her best friend Cameron. Then one day he disappears without saying goodbye. Years later Jennifer has reinvented herself as Jenna, a skinny, popular, "normal" 17 year old. She thinks she's done a good job of hiding who she used to be, until Cameron walks back into her life. Heart-breaking, difficult, but ultimately worthwhile read.
Come for the...
feeling. I'd read several books that were entertaining, or fun reads, but I hadn't found anything that really stuck with me since I'd finished Jellicoe Road. Then I read Sweethearts, and all the feeling was almost overwhelming. In some ways that makes it a hard book to read, but Zarr is so good at what she does here. I wanted to cry and puke and give Jenna a hug and tell her to give other people a chance and confide in them all at once. And get Cameron's dad put in jail. And get Jenna and Cameron in therapy.
I think anyone who has ever wanted to reinvent themselves can relate to Jenna in at least a small way. I liked that she wasn't magically ok with herself once she lost weight and got a boyfriend. And I appreciated that she came to recognize a couple of good qualities in her old self. Jennifer experienced more than many people face. This book made me think of The Hunger Games series in that it seemed there was almost no limit to what the characters would be put through. That makes for a scary read, but I think the growth at the end makes it worthwhile.
Stay for the
cover, the little Utah quirks (the crummy neighborhood that Jenna grows up in is in West Valley; when there's an unexpected knock at the door they wonder if it's the missionaries, etc)
Don't think about this too hard
- I didn't know where else to put this in the review, so it's going here. Throughout the book Jenna flashes back to a very disturbing event with Cameron's abusive dad. It's very disturbing, especially because it takes a while to figure out how far things are taken. I don't know how to talk about it without being spoilery, so I'll just say that this is not a book for young teens.
- A lot of people don't like the book's ending. I can't help but compare it to Mockingjay. If you didn't like how that ended you'll probably feel similarly about this one. But I still recommend both books.
The Big Three
Language: A couple of mild profanities
Sex and Stuff: an adult intends to abuse children (spoilers: but is thwarted), some kissing, Katniss/Peeta sleepover
Violence: heavily implied child abuse, bullying