Recap: When you’re about to turn 18 and live in New York City, a summer in a small North Carolina city with the father you haven’t spoken to in three years does not sound ideal. But that’s how Ronnie is spending her post-high school summer. Already an angsty teenager, Ronnie leaves New York for Wilmington with her younger brother Jonah, expecting to have the worst summer of her life .
But instead, her summer is life-altering. Her first night in Wilmington, she meets Blaze, another moody teen like herself and Will, the picture-perfect, popular pretty boy. She also meets Marcus, Blaze’s boyfriend who makes a pass at Ronnie. In a matter of days, Blaze turns on Ronnie, misinterpreting what’s going on with her and Marcus, and Ronnie and Will naturally “find” each other.
Ronnie’s summer drama escalates as she begins to fall in love for the first time, while Marcus and Blaze set out to ruin her life. And all the while, she begins reconnecting with the father she only knew as a little girl. Each plotline climaxes at the same time, rocking Ronnie’s world into one of heartache and caring for a sick loved one.
Analysis: A Nicholas Sparks novel wouldn’t be a Nicholas Sparks novel if there wasn’t a terminally-ill character, a Southern setting, and a deep, meaningful romance that happens almost overnight. But this Sparks novel goes deeper than most, not only focusing on a romance, but on a father-daughter relationship as well. Even though the romantic portions of the novel are the real page-turners, Ronnie’s relationship with her father is the true crux of the story. It emphasizes the depth of a relationship between a parent and child compared to one between two teenagers.
As usual, Sparks’ writing is easy to follow and mostly predictable. But no matter how many common themes I find in his books, I keep coming back. The romance sucks me in every time, despite how completely unbelievable it is. And in a shocking twist of events, this romance actually ends on a somewhat happy note — unlike A Walk to Remember, Dear John, and Nights in Rodanthe. There’s also a nice musical aspect to the story that incorporates a character’s discover, or in this case rediscovery, of talent.
MVP: Will. He’s basically flawless in every way. Though Ronnie overcomes her biggest flaws and learns from them, Will is naturally a good person. He tells the truth, makes good choices, and is kind to everyone.