Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sweethearts, Sara Zarr

I have mixed feelings about this book. Mostly negative ones but a muddle nonetheless. I read Story of a Girl and really did not like it. But I still kept reading it and Sara Zarr really does know how to write. So when I saw this review on the Super Fast Reader I was interested in the mystery & suspense elements of a long lost friend returning from the supposed dead. And I really liked the cover art (or maybe I just like cookies).

Another good thing about Sara Zarr's books is that they are readable in 1 hour or less. Sweethearts was my "magazine in the bathtub" reading for the evening. So it's hard to get that angry when I don't like a book that only took an hour of my life. But I think that's what bugs me the most; I like caring about characters and what happens to them and while I clearly wanted to know the outcome of Sweethearts I never really cared about the characters.

My other issue with this book are the completely random comments about Mormons. I get that Sweethearts takes place in Salt Lake and that Mormons are a majority in Utah but it felt very tacked on and heavy handed. Let's hammer it home that Jenna is the odd girl out. I'm sorry but I think Jenna would have been the odd girl out anywhere: she was the only child of a single parent who was neglecting her. Kids are going to notice the kid who gets free lunch, wears dirty clothes, and smells weird. It's sad but it's true and I don't think it has anything to do with being Mormon or not. It bugged me enough to google around a bit and I found this blog I agree with:

There was only one thing that I think did not work for Sweethearts and that was the continual mention of Mormons simply because it was set in Salt Lake City. I totally get and understand that Sara Zarr was trying to convey the isolation that Jennifer felt, that she didn’t belong. But none of the characters nor her family were Mormons. I never felt that her awkwardness or lack of friends came from the fact that she wasn’t Mormon. I think it either needed to be reworked a bit to solidify that point or else not mentioned at all. (I did laugh out loud about a couple of the high school students dressing up like Mormon pioneers. Honestly, I don’t think any high school kid, Mormon or not, would want to be caught dead in that costume.)

I also liked this conversation in the comments on the same blog entry

  1. I have to disagree with you about the Mormon thing. I lived near Hill AFB when I was the age Jennifer was and being a non-Mormon really felt like that to me.

  2. Lenore - I’m not saying that her character had no right to feel isolated because she was LDS but rather that Sara Zarr didn’t pull it off very well in the writing. They statements seemed randomly inserted rather than concrete examples to back up the characters feeling. It’s unfortunate you felt that way as a teenager yourself. I grew up in the opposite situation (LDS in a non-LDS community) and had the same feelings of isolation as well.

So I probably will read whatever Sara Zarr writes next because her books have pretty covers and get talked about everywhere and in the end it's just not that much of a time or mental investment to read them. And maybe I'll like the next one because I really do see the ability in her writing- I just don't like the characters and plots she has used so far.

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