As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also each other's only friend. So when Cameron disappeared without warning, Jennifer thought she'd lost the one person who would ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she is popular, happy, and dating--everything "Jennifer" couldn't be. But she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they both are confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.
With a title like Sweethearts and a wonderfully simplistic cover of a heart-shaped cookie, I picked up this book for a light and fluffy romance. That....was so not the case. Because my expectations were so wrong, I think my opinion of the story is unjustly skewed toward the negative. I'm going to try to be positive though, because if you know it's not a romance, then you will probably enjoy it much more!
What Sweethearts is, really, is an examination of those relationships that are more than friendship, more than romance, more than family. Jenna had a fairly craptacular childhood, but she had BFF Cameron to make it bearable. When he disappears, she reinvents herself and worries every single day that someone will reveal her past as a bullied nobody. Then Cameron comes back, and her world goes crazy.
I loved seeing the psychology of someone who desperately tries not to be herself. I went through a bit of a personality makeover after high school, and I empathized with Jenna's desire to be something more, to resist old tendencies, to fear reverting back. At the same time, there was a subtle thread of hope showing that despite her walled-off defenses, Jenna has learned to trust people a little.
Which is another thing I loved! Steph is a fantastic best friend! She was understanding, fiercely loyal to Jenna, and interested in knowing her mysterious friend more without pushing faster than Jenna could handle. The rest of Jenna's friends were very real; sometimes annoying, sometimes hilarious, always teenagers.
I also really loved Jenna's mom and stepfather. They had a wonderfully refreshing family atmosphere. Jenna's mom was a failure in many ways, but she was believeably clueless about the ways she hurt Jenna. Most of the time she truly thought she was acting in Jenna's best interest, and the Best Stepfather Ever sometimes had to step in and point out Jenna's side of things. I adored the family stuff.
Okay, I've talked myself into a much higher rating. But remember! Not a traditional romance! Do not read this if you're in the mood for fluff. It's much deeper than that.
Four out of five hidden candy bars.
Release Date: February 2008
Reading Level: Ages 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL ZAR