Tag Archives: Nicholas Sparks

Review: The Best of Me

Recap: When Amanda and Dawson met in high school, they fell into the most rebellious kind of love. Amanda was from the good side of the tracks, Dawson from the bad. Dawson’s family was full of criminals, and Amanda’s parents wouldn’t have it. Amanda spent all her time with Dawson regardless, but when Amanda goes to college, and Dawson goes through a life-changing event, their relationship fizzles.

Twenty-five years later, they’re both headed to the same funeralĀ  in their hometown in North Carolina. Their friend and mentor Tuck has died. Tuck was the man with whom Dawson lived for a while, a man who, — later in life — became close to Amanda. Tuck was the man who allowed the two to spend time together when they were teens. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that they run into each other the weekend of Tuck’s funeral. And yet, the initial shock never wears off after Amanda and Dawson see each other.

It becomes clear to Amanda and Dawson that the love between them is still there. But their lives are not at all what they expected them to be. Amanda is married with a family. Dawson has a dark history that Amanda knows nothing about. Is there room for each other in the present, or is the past the past?

Analysis: If you like Nicholas Sparks books, you can probably guess how The Best of Me ends. Sparks uses the same devices he always does — long-lost love, years go by, love that shouldn’t happen, all set in North Carolina and somehow intertwined with death or illness. So if you like Nicholas Sparks, there’s no reason you won’t like The Best of Me.

Though I’m not the biggest Sparks fan, I somehow end up reading a lot of his books. This one doesn’t quite compare with his others — The Notebook, The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe. The Best of Me includes a number of characters I didn’t care for, ie Dawson’s brothers. Not to mention, it was hard for me to believe or understand how, after 25 years, Amanda and Dawson could still feel as strongly about each other as they did when they were 16; and that all that love could come back in just the course of a weekend. Books can be romantic, and they can be fantasies. But if Nicholas Sparks is trying to tell a realistic love story, there’s simply too much fantasy here to believe it could happen.

MVP: Tuck. Though he’s only alive for a small portion of the book, he’s the heart of the story, the one who brings Amanda and Dawson together, the one who teaches them, comforts them and loves them more than either of their parents ever did.

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Movie vs. Book: Nights in Rodanthe

In my mind, Nights in Rodanthe is one of the few Nicholas Sparks novels not about puppy love, but about second-chance love, the kind of love that comes later in life. This is the story of Adrienne and Paul, who meet while trying to both deal with and escape from their own lives by spending a weekend at an inn on a beach in Rodanthe.

It’s a story of love, loss, and hope for a future later in life. However, the general plotline is about the only thing that is accurately translated from book to movie. The storytelling and circumstances are different. In the book, Adrienne is retelling the story of she and Paul to her daughter years after the relationship ends. In the movie, we never see that fast-forwarded timeline.

But the biggest change is that in the book, Adrienne takes the weekend to get away from her children, sick father, and remarried ex-husband. In the movie, her father has already died, and what’s stranger, she is not divorced from her husband. In fact, in the opening scene of the movie, the two are estranged after her husband had an infidelity, and he (Law and Order: SVU‘s Christopher Meloni) is now pathetically begging her to take him back.

It sounds like a minor detail, but there are a number of issues with this change; this turns Adrienne’s romantic lovefest of a weekend with Paul into a full-on affair because, after all, she is still married. Of course her marriage is failing, and this relationship makes her realize why she shouldn’t get back together with her husband. But nonetheless, it makes her a cheater, and that does nothing to help her character.

The other problem is that it was so far from how the book was written, it felt forced — as though the directors were just trying to find a way to give Chris Meloni a more substantial role in the movie because he’s a familiar face.

Speaking of familiar faces, the casting in the film was excellent. Diane Lane plays a fun, awkward, and overwhelmed Adrienne. Richard Gere is perfect as the stoic Paul who then becomes a better man. Even James Franco gives a solid performance as Paul’s son, Mark — though the role is minor.

But like almost every other Nicholas Sparks book that becomes a movie, it just doesn’t feel quite right. The story is too rushed. There’s not enough background. Knowing what we know about the characters’ history and experiences in the book makes the rest of the story more believable. However, in the movie, there’s simply not enough time to give a clear telling of those back stories.

Instead of logical and steady, the relationship between Adrienne and Paul seems random and too much too soon. The passion comes across onscreen, but the story feels all kinds of unrealistic.

Watch the trailer here.
Get Nights in Rodanthe in paperback or on your Kindle for $7.99.

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Movie vs. Book: The Last Song

Combine a teenage summer romance with a sick parent, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a typical, but engrossing Nicholas Sparks novel. Sadly, the movie doesn’t live up to its literary predecessor.

The Last Song tells the story of a recent high school graduate, Ronnie, who leaves New York City for North Carolina to spend the summer with the father she hasn’t seen since her parents divorced a few years earlier. Her summer of angst quickly turns into one of love, though Ronnie continues to deal with her troubled past — at least in the novel.

In the book version of The Last Song, Ronnie gets framed for shoplifting by a spiteful girl named Blaze. While she spends the majority of her summer falling in love with the perfect, popular and wealthy Will, she also works to clean up her mess, making court appearances and meeting with her lawyer until Blaze finally confesses. Most of this is completely cut from the movie. In the movie version, Blaze does set Ronnie up, and Ronnie gets caught. But in an obvious and lazy case of deus ex machina, Ronnie learns that her dad is friends with the store owner and will take care of it. The problem is never mentioned again throughout the movie. I couldn’t believe that the shoplifting subplot was virtually cut. It was a large part of the book and helps to emphasize Ronnie’s past as she moves toward her future. Not to mention, the movie’s handling of the storyline seemed very abrupt.

Much of the rest of the movie only loosely follows the book. All of the overall outcomes are the same, but many of the details and means to the end are different. Even the end is different; there’s still a happy ending for the two young lovebirds, but the way it’s revealed does not follow the novel.

The rest of the movie worked for the most part. I had a difficult time seeing Miley Cyrus as “Ronnie” and not Miley Cyrus, but her acting chops were decent, and her chemistry with real-life and onscreen boyfriend Liam Hemsworth was undeniable. However, there were times where I found myself thinking I was watching the movie more for the chemistry between the two leads than for the story itself (similar to the way people watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt started dating; they wanted to see “how it all started.”)

Greg Kinnear was moving as Ronnie’s sick father, and I cried at the end, like a chick flick fan should. I have to hand it for Nicholas Sparks for always managing to suck me in, but that doesn’t mean that the movie necessarily lived up to the book.

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Review: The Last Song

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, andĀ 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.

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Or on your Kindle for $7.99 as well.

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Review: Nights in Rodanthe

Recap: What if you had a second chance at love? Would you know right away? How long would it take you realize this person was “the one?” Nights in Rodanthe begs these questions in typical Nicholas Sparks fashion. It tells the story of a divorcee, Adrienne, whose daughter’s husband just died. Seeing her daughter struggle in her mourning encourages her to tell her the story she’s kept secret for 14 years.

Years ago, Adrienne spent a weekend at her friend’s Inn in Rodanthe to get away from her children, sick father, and remarried ex-husband. It just so happened to be a weekend that her friend rented a room to Paul Flanner, a talented, respected doctor. As Adrienne spends time with Paul, she begins to realize she’s not the only one with baggage. Paul is also divorced. He has a poor relationship with his son and stopped at the Inn to meet a patient’s husband, who is angry with him about his dead wife.

It sounds confusing, but Adrienne and Paul find simplicity and comfort in each other. And in just a matter of days, they are brought together by fate and love. But making it last beyond that weekend is where the complexity comes back to bite them.

Analysis: As I mentioned above, Nights in Rodanthe is a Nicholas Sparks novel through and through. It’s a love story — a depressing one. It inevitably involves loss and illness. It’s also very predictable. But you know what? It’s still good.

Every once in a while, I need to read a book that lets me clear my head, live in a fantasy, and enjoy. And for that, this is the perfect book. Each part of the story is expected, but it’s fun to live in a romantic fantasy world in which love conquers all, helps you grow, etc, etc, etc.

A few interesting things to note about this particular Sparks novel is that it’s the love story of an older couple. Those extra years means more experience and more baggage. For Paul and Adrienne, this is their second shot at a happy-ending love story. Most of Sparks’ characters die or become ill or go to war before they have a second chance. It’s exciting to think that maybe when you are older and wiser, you know better and fall for the right person — whether the timing is off or not.

MVP: Paul’s son, Mark. Though he has a seemingly minor role in the story, Nights in Rodanthe virtually revolves around him. And despite his youth, he’s one of the strongest characters. He’s not weak like Adrienne, and he’s not selfish like his father. It’s his actions that resonate at the end of the book.

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Review: Dear John

Recap: It’s a story we’ve all heard before. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy goes off to war. Sadness ensues. But the story of Dear John goes a little further. Not only must the soldier and protagonist, John, return to his duties in Germany and leave behind his new girlfriend, Savannah. He must also say goodbye to his father, who suffers from Asberger’s syndrome.

Dear John is a love story between John, who’s on leave from the military, and Savannah, who’s building homes during her spring break from UNC. The unlikely two fall in love in just a few weeks. But in that time, Savannah — who is studying psychology at school — points out to John that his father may be autistic. Even though that would explain his father’s isolation and awkwardness, the suggestion erupts into a fight that ultimately brings John and Savannah — and John’s father — closer together.

Before they know it, John and Savannah are two halves of a (very) long-distance relationship. After a year, John returns to Savannah, and though things have changed, their feelings for each other have not. John, once again, goes back to the army. But then September 11th happens. And though he promised Savannah he wouldn’t re-sign, he feels obligated to venture off to Afghanistan. And that one decision is the one that would change both of their lives forever.

Analysis: In true Nicholas Sparks fashion, Dear John is a love story that not only deals with the hardships of love and the questions about fate and destiny, but with disease and chronic illness. The story focuses on the effects of autism, pertaining to John’s father. It also deals with physical illness — cancer — from which Savannah’s friend, Tim, suffers. Throw war on top of that, and you’re dealing with a book that has a lot of heavy issues.

The first part of the book focuses on the love story between the two main characters, but the latter portions are much darker. The characters brood, yearn for each other, and generally make the reader depressed. Not to mention, John and his father are rather likable, but I didn’t love Savannah. She was too much of a “goody-goody,” and an annoying one at that. The problem here is that if I don’t love her, it’s hard for me to understand why John does. Therein lies a major flaw.

I still enjoyed the book regardless. There’s really nothing like a romance — no matter how annoying the characters are. And the parts about the war were also done well. Though I wasn’t a fan of the ending, I understood that it was reality. Sometimes our lives don’t go the way we plan, and sometimes it’s our own fault. But that’s the way it is, and that’s what Dear John is really all about.

MVP: John’s dad. As Savannah blatantly points out throughout the novel, John’s father did an excellent job of raising him, despite his autism. As more and more illnesses are discovered, doctors realize that older patients were overlooked in their youth. That seems to be the case here. When John’s father was young and a little “off,” there was no reason to believe anything was actually wrong with him. The idea of this character is a good one, and Sparks does it the right way.

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