Sara Zarr

I spent the whole time when I was reading both Story of a Girl and Sweethearts with this nagging voice in the back of my brain saying “I just don’t understand all the accolades. What am I missing?” I put both of them down for hours, even days, which I don’t usually do when I get into a book. And then …….. when I finished hours, days, weeks later I’d find myself thinking about them.

It has been a while since I read Story of a Girl. As usual when I know a setting pretty well, I was somewhat distracted placing places within my context of “Pathetica” or Pacifica. I remember the bare bones – that the female character had a reputation based on an incident where her father caught her in a car with an older boy. She, and her family, have a pretty estranged relationship. Mostly what I remember is the tone of the novel. To use a metaphor – it was the setting, all gray and foggy and damp.

Sweethearts I just read, so it is more fresh. When they were in elementary school Jennifer and Cameron were each other’s only friends. But he disappeared, and she thought he was dead. And so she recreated herself and now she is Jenna with friends, family, and boyfriend. But Cameron comes back and everything is not so easy anymore. Although I suspect it never really was, it is hinted at, never explicit, which is part of the genius of Zarr allowing her characters to truly develop in the reader’s mind without laying it all out. You cannot be a lazy reader, and understand the depth of characterization in Zarr’s characters. Or at least her main character. Jenna and Cameron’s connection is deep, and based on a secret – which adds to the importance of their connection.

I am glad I ignore the little voice, although I wish it didn’t interrupt me.


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