Wednesday, July 30, 2008
by Sarah Zarr
Sweethearts is the story of Jennifer/Jenna a seventeen year old semi-popular girl who hates her birthday. On her ninth birthday, something happened at her best friend's house, and she has never really been able to move on. Jennifer (aka Fattifer) is a chubby misfit who only has the one friend. The next school year, her friend (Cameron) moves away and is presumed dead, so Jennifer transforms herself into Jenna who doesn't cry at school and has lots of friends. However, her world is thrown for a loop when Cameron shows up at her school on her 17th birthday, and Jenna must figure out who she really is and what happened to her friend so many years ago.
This story rotates between the memory of her ninth birthday and the present. I thought this format worked really well for the story, and I read more and more trying to figure out exactly what happened that fateful day. Jenna is an interesting character, especially her conflict in trying to figure out who she really is. I think everyone experiences this dilemma at some point growing up (though maybe not to the same extent), and the emotions felt real. Her use of food as a crutch also seemed really true to life. I enjoyed watching her try to determine who she was.
I was disappointed that Cameron's character wasn't developed as thoroughly. It kind of felt like we should just know that he was an amazing friend to someone who didn't have any. The examples of him being an amazing friend (the doll house and the ring) were sweet, but they didn't seem to be enough to have caused such a deep connection. I also thought it was interesting that he didn't seem to have many issues for a kid the grew up in such an abusive/transient household.
My biggest complaint about this book is kind of petty, but it really bothered me, and it took away from my reading enjoyment. The story takes place in Salt Lake City and the two main characters (Jenn and Cam) are not members of the LDS church. Several times in the book the author makes sure to mention that they aren't LDS and that's why they are outcasts. Like when Jennifer is explaining why she was picked on in school she says something along the lines of she was chubby, smelled funny, wasn't Mormon, things like that (I returned the book to the library, so I don't have an exact quote). And later, when Jenna is talking about the school she goes too she says something about how all the kids that go there don't quite fit in for various reasons: behavior issues, not being Mormon enough, etc. I just really felt that this was totally unnecessary, especially since there weren't any characters in the story who were LDS. The "bad guy" was Cam's father, who was not a Mormon. Why bring it up at all if there wasn't a purpose?
I should add that the references only happen a handful of times; it is definately not a theme for the story. I suspect that most people won't even pick up on it. I don't really know what else to say about it; for some reason it just really bothered me and took away from my enjoyment of the story because it was totally unnecessary.
3 out of 5 stars
Posted by KT at 3:01 PM