Mature love story about teens with dark pasts.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Jenna both binge eats and shoplifts, childhood habits that reemerge with Cameron's return.


Jenna flashes back to a childhood memory of Cameron's father trying to get the kids to play a sex game. There are more references to his dad being abusive.


Some kissing and making out. Jenna's stepfather finds her in bed with Cameron, though nothing is going on.


Stuff like "hell," "bitch," "ass," etc.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking at a party.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a mature book. Cameron and Jenna both had lonely lives as children, and endured a horrific event when Cameron's father tried to bully them into playing a sex game. When Cameron reappears in Jenna's life, Jenna begins binge eating and shoplifting again. Cameron, too, has unresolved issues, and is currently living without a home or family. Jenna's stepfather also catches them in bed together. Beyond that, there is also some light swearing, drinking, and kissing.

What's the story?

Jenna Vaughn used to be named Jennifer Harris. She was fat, dirty, and often home alone. At school, she -- and her only friend Cameron -- used to get picked on by their school's mean kids. After Cameron moves away (and, according to the kids at school, dies in an accident), she decides to transform into someone new: a pretty, skinny, happy girl whom everyone likes. But will Jenna be able to keep her unhappy past from resurfacing when years later Cameron moves back to town?

Is it any good?


This is a dark book. Even readers drawn to the carefully crafted story here may be overwhelmed by the mature problems Jenna and Cameron deal with here. Between them they face bullies, homelessness, abuse, shoplifting, binge eating, and more -- Jenna even grows up believing Cameron is dead. The several flashbacks to that fateful day when Cameron's abusive father tries to get the kids to play a sex game is likewise both well drawn and creepy.

Jenna's ability to start dealing with the past -- and become the person she wants to be -- is heroic. And it's convincing, too, thanks to a realistically imperfect cast of secondary characters, especially Jenna's mother. In the end, this is a book for mature readers only, but those who are ready will be moved by this story of Jenna and Cameron's intense attachment. And they will appreciate that Jenna not only accepts herself for who she truly is, but learns to see the strengths she has had all along.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about reinvention. Can you think of other books and movies in which a character goes from nerdy to popular (think even as far back as Cinderella)? Why are we fascinated with this idea in our culture? How do these stories usually end? How is Jenna a different sort of ugly duckling?

Book details

Author:Sara Zarr
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:February 1, 2008
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):12
Read aloud:14
Read alone:15

This review of Sweethearts was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent of a 17 year old Written byMari13 March 29, 2010

Perfect for older kids

i loved it was an amazing book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written byPurstiltski7 March 18, 2010

Worthy for anyone

Great book with a great story, though sad as it may be. It exposes readers to things that really do exist, even if they aren't too good, but it's a book that I would definitely read again.
Parent of a 11 year old Written bythager April 9, 2008
A disturbing, yet well-crafted story. The main charaters are stong, independet teens who have faced horrendous situations during childhood.While both have learned to cope, their coping comes at a high cost. A thought provoking novel for older teens.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide