With a title like Sweethearts and an image of a pink sugar cookie, many readers might assume this novel follows the popular YA romance storyline of two childhood best friends who fall in love after realizing they are meant to be with each other. But, Sara Zarr’s novel is more than just a sugary love story with a nice, neat build up and an “ever after” resolution. In Sweethearts, you will find words, images, and characters that resonate in readers a “bruise of longing” familiar to all who have ever loved. You will find Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick, two seventeen year old high school students who are dealing with more than the typical teen identity crisis. And, you will find the kind of love story that pulls on your emotions and leaves a mark—an imprint of what love is. You know, I love the kind of story that ends with the big happy ending and deep declarations of love, but even though Sweethearts is not this kind of novel, it is now one of my favorites. The entire novel seems anticlimactic when it comes to the big love story and it left me in a slump for days. But this is the beauty of the novel. You want things to move between them—to get to the core of their raw emotions, but things just feel unfinished between Jennifer and Cameron, and this is what the entire novel is about. It’s about how love is always unfinished.
As for the plot, Jennifer reinvents herself as Jenna Vaughn, leaving behind the nine year old version of herself to become the nice, thin girl with a boyfriend and two supportive parents who never does anything spontaneous. But in doing so, she also loses pieces of Cameron Quick, her only friend and confidant from elementary school and the only one who shares her painful, childhood memories. So, when Cameron comes back for Jennifer, he finds a girl with a lot going for her yet a girl he still remembers as the only person he has ever needed. Together they must come to terms with the girl and boy they used to be and the circumstances they faced with one another as children. Again, the huge love scene is missing, but the ending is very memorable as Jenna describes the intricacies of love. Also, I love how the novel comes full circle with the last sentence—you’ll see what I mean.