February 22, 2009

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

SweetheartsOnce upon a time Jenna Vaughn was called Jennifer Harris, she was chubby and an outcast at her mostly-Mormon elementary school in Utah, and she had only one friend: Cameron Quick. But then, one day, Cameron didn't show up for school and a few months later some mean girl at school told her Cameron was dead, and when her mother didn't deny it, Jennifer decided to bury herself along with Cameron and so Jenna Vaughn was born.

Now, eight years later, Jenna is 17, lives with her mother and loving stepfather in a good neighborhood, and attends a small, alternative high school and everyone loves her, she's thin and popular and even has a boyfriend of her very own. Jenna's life is perfect except that there are times, like on her birthday, when Jennifer Harris comes to life and she has to admit that though she has changed a lot the past still haunts her; especially the memory of something that happened on her ninth birthday while she was at Cameron's house.

And the past takes a definite shape and form with Cameron returns from the dead - or California as it turns out to be - he was never dead, just gone... and soon Jenna has to come to terms with the person she was and the person she is now, she wonders if she's really happy, if her new friends really know her and if what she still feels for Cameron can be called 'love' when he hasn't been around for 8 years and might disappear one day just as he came.

As I write this I realize this book affected me more than what I first thought, Jenna's struggle to accept herself strikes a familiar cord and the truth is that I couldn't stop reading once I started. I don't think Sara Zarr's style is my favorite but it is compelling and it grabs you and doesn't let go.

I liked Jenna/Jennifer and Cameron and the decisions they ultimately made, though, as with Story of a Girl, there isn't really an ending but more like three hopeful dots at the end in a story that, once the book is closed, can go either way.


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