Retro Friday Reviews is a feature/meme hosted by Angieville where you review an older or lesser known book on Fridays.
If there was a class called Contemporary 101, I am pretty sure that Sweethearts by Sara Zarr would be required reading. While I am incredibly well-read, I am not as well-read as I think I am. With a windfall of free listening time, I happily placed a hold on the Sweethearts audiobook at my local library, ready to meet the infamous Cameron Quick.
Jennifer Harris had a shitty childhood. She was plump, often hungry — resorting to stealing food. Her mom was not around because she was in nursing school working full time. Also, Jennifer was bullied at school and called Fatifer which definitely messed her up. However, through it all she had one steadfast friend, Cameron Quick who had the worst home life, with a domineering, abusive father. Years have passed. Cameron has left. Jennifer is now Jenna Vaughn, living a comfy life with nice clothes and a nice house. Not to mention the most awesome step dad ever, Alan. Jenna now goes to a charter school called Jones Hall, she has a nice boyfriend named Ethan and is popular. Her life again crosses paths with Cameron Quick in an unexpected way.
I thought Sweethearts by Sara Zarr was heartfelt and emotional. I couldn’t help but empathize with Jenna and her past. Zarr does an excellent job showing themes of how our childhoods shape us and how many people still carry scars of bullying. We see it in Jenna’s characterization, how she’s afraid to be her real self because she doesn’t want her new friends to hat her like the jerks she went to elementary school with. Cameron Quick, my heart aches for you. I mean, he comes back into Jenna’s life only to find out she has a boyfriend. There’s tension, longing, and unfinished business. Sigh, no real sexytimes though. I’d definitely say that Sweethearts is a complex read with tough issues but it never turns all after school special on you.
The audiobook of Sweethearts is read by Sara Zarr, the author. While I liked the story, I did not like the author as a narrator. I can’t help but think the audiobook would have benefited from a pro-reader at the helm, like Jenna Lamia. I thought Zarr had a weird accent (at least to my ears). And the characters all sounded the same. This is not among the best audiobooks that I have listened too. If you are experiencing Sweethearts for the first time, I would say, read the physical book or an ebook instead of the audiobook.Â However, this audiobook produced by Listening Library is only 5 hours and 49 minutes long, so it’s not a huge time investment or anything.
Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library.
Other reviews of Sweethearts by Sara Zarr:
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