Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sweethearts

Ashley and I both recently read a book. Here's our take -- Alysa in black, Ashley in red.

Sweethearts
, by Sara Zarr, is un-put-down-able. Seriously, I think I only put it down twice, to do very important things. And since it's fairly short, that means I finished it in less than a day.

With a title like "Sweethearts" you might think it was a sappy teen romance. Au contraire! The book is about best friends Jennifer and Cameron, brought together by circumstance and temperament in grade school. How does having befriended Cameron change Jenna's life? Who is she, with and without him?

I think at least some of the un-put-down-ableness of this book comes from its honesty. When we read books, our attachment to characters often arises from how much we see of ourselves in them. And let's face it: we've all got that awful fourth-grade experience (e.g., wetting our pants in the cafeteria because we and a friend were laughing too hard) we hope our adult peers never hear about, or that hideous sixth-grade school photo (two words: ginormous glasses) that we've done our best to hide from posterity. So we can all relate to Jenna's carefully buried "Jennifer." That connection, paired with the way the author only gradually reveals the details of the big and terrifying past event that proved the turning point in Jenna's life keep us hanging on to this story and hoping Jenna will show us just how past humiliations can be finally overcome.

Poignant and memorable, this one left Ashley and I both feeling wistful. It reminded me of some of my life experiences, and . . . well, it was just riveting. Also a bit of fun, this one is set in Mormon mecca Salt Lake City; so there were a few references to Mormonism though the main characters don't belong to the church.

Recommended for teens and adults.

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