What I’m Reading: SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr

This book was not what I thought it would be. It was better…

Summary from the inside jacket:

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other’s only friend. So when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she’d lost the one person who would ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she is 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 both are confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

Oh my, this book. I cannot talk about it without spoilers, so if you haven’t read this novel, you’ve been warned!

I really thought this book was going to go in a completely different direction, but Sara Zarr took this story someplace much better. When Cameron walks back into Jennifer’s life, I thought that ultimately, she would rediscover her love for him, her old self, and the two would walk off stary-eyed into the sunset.

But, no. The ending is terribly bittersweet, with two friends parting ways, but never relinquishing their love for the other. I thought this book was a very honest look at how childhood friendships can shape us into who we become and how some loves last forever, but not always in a tangible way. Cameron and Jennifer will forever be sweethearts, just as the title of this book suggests, but they will spend much of their lives apart, and many of their days with others – even other sweethearts.

This was a love story without the perfect ending, but it was satisfying nonetheless. Jennifer learns to love herself again, and she also realizes that her love for Cameron isn’t any less real because they are not together. Their loving friendship was real as children and their loving friendship was real as young adults. It was and always would be real, even in all its various forms.

Sweethearts is a story about the power of memory, the bond of friendship, and the quiet resilience of our childhood hearts.

That line comes from the inner jacket and it could not be a more true summary of this story. Well done, Sara Zarr. Well done.

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