March 17, 2009

Everything Changes: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

This title was a 2008 Cybils YA finalist.

The old adage says that inside every fat person is a thin person struggling to get out. Well, it’s kind of the opposite for Jenna Vaughn. She’s lost the weight, and now she’s several years older and doing much better at a different school, but the little overweight girl Jennifer Harris is always hovering at the edges, threatening to slip out and ruin the precarious but perfect life she’s built. The memories of taunting and bullying—those she can’t shed as easily as the pounds.

The other memories she can’t shed are of her former best friend, Cameron Quick. He was her ONLY friend during those dark days, and she, in turn, was privy to his dark secret of an emotionally abusive and physically threatening father. Jenna thinks those days are long gone—in fact, she never found out what happened to Cameron after he suddenly stopped showing up to school. So when he shows up in her life again, it’s a jarring shock. So much about him is the same, but just as she’s changed in more apparent ways, Cameron’s changed, too; it’s just that the changes are less obvious.

Sweethearts is in many ways a very ambitious story that is deceptively simple on the surface—author Sara Zarr paints not only the main characters of Jenna and Cameron with loving detail, but many of the minor characters are also quite compelling, particularly Jenna’s sympathetically portrayed stepfather. I did feel the story’s main antagonist, Cameron’s father, could have been developed further, and I expected more tension and drama from that quarter. However, the core story about friendship and how it changes so easily is solidly and sensitively written.

Buy Sweethearts from an independent bookstore near you!

2 comments:

tanita s. davis said...

*sigh*
This is one more book I wanted to read, and didn't remember to grab! Well, it may actually be in bookstores here, and I plan to check...

annie said...

I just finished 'Sweethearts' and loved it. Sara Zarr is one of my favorite authors. ('Story of a Girl' is one of the best YA books ever.) All her characters are so honest and emotionally present on the page, and she also knows how to make a story really engaging. Thanks for your review!