Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sweethearts (2008) (Little, Brown)
Sara Zarr
Grade: A-
Genre: young adult
Source: own
General RBC 2015: A classic YA novel 

Once upon a time, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were best friends. Social outcasts at school, they came to depend on each other in a way that only they understood. When one day Cameron doesn’t turn up for school and Jennifer is told that he’s dead, her world is turned upside down. Now in high school, Jennifer Harris is no more. ‘Jenna’ has a happy family after her mum remarried, a close-knit group of friends and a doting boyfriend of three months. When Cameron returns out of the blue, Jenna’s life is thrown out-of-sync – again. As their relationship clicks back into place as if picking up where they left off, they are both forced to remember their shared history and Jenna’s new life suddenly hangs in the balance …

I bought this book based on word-of-mouth recommendation back in 2009. I’m doing a massive cull of my shelves at the moment, which involves reading and getting rid of books that I’ve owned for years but still haven’t read. I thought that Sweethearts would be one of the ones I’d want to get rid of once I read it, but this is a book that has stood the test of time. I might have outgrown my huge young adult phase, but this is a book that makes me fall in love with the genre all over again.

After a mediocre start to the year on the reading scene, Sweethearts as the fifth book I’ve finished this year, has restored my faith that 2015 will be a great year for reading. Jenna and Cameron have an intimacy in their friendship that no one will ever understand – they barely understand it themselves. They are drawn to each other like moths to a flame and take strength and comfort in the reality that they don’t need anyone else. Jenna is heartbroken when she believes that Cameron is dead and literally reinvents herself, because she can’t be who she was when Cameron isn’t there to complete her. Their years apart have added a mutual hesitancy to their interactions and an unwillingness to push the other too far. The (sexual) tension and awkwardness really comes through on the page and it makes for wonderfully on-edge reading.

This was a haunting and beautifully written book. I also own Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl so I can imagine that I’ll be reading that one soon. Besides the whole Cameron situation, Jenna is a pretty normal girl with problems in life that are easily relatable. She’s a heroine you can come to care for very quickly and I was gutted when the book was over. This was a quick, fresh and enjoyable read, despite a few darker moments. I haven’t read such well-rounded teenage characters in a long time and so even if young adult isn’t your thing, you need to read this.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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