Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Nicholas Sparks: I don't like you

This blog entry likely contains spoilers.

I really don't like Nicholas Sparks. The best reason I can figure for always picking up his novels are that I want to read something that won't take too long, or I need to have a good cry. Yes, I don't like Nicholas Sparks' books but cry at them anyway.

This weekend I saw "Dear John", so I figured I would spell out my feelings about the book and the movie and the way I think the story should have been told. (More on my thoughts on the movie on Tuned in to Pop Culture.)

"Dear John" is about a Special Forces soldier named John, who on leave meets beautiful Savannah. The two fall in love quickly. He returns to Army life, re-enlists after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and she breaks his heart by writing him a "Dear John" letter to tell him she is engaged. Bet you couldn't have figured out any of that just from the title of the book, right?

What the summary on Nicholas Sparks' Web site leaves out is really the best story in the novel: John has a strained relationship with his father, which Savannah is able to explain to him. Her words are hard for him to hear, but they help him understand why things are the way they are and give him the opportunity to improve on them.

Here is the problem with Nicholas Sparks. He has a great opportunity to tell an incredibly emotional story about a troubled father-son relationship, but he instead emphasizes the silly self-centered girl who gets angry that John wants to re-commit to the Army after the country was attacked by terrorists. Really?

I didn't want to like this book because I don't want to like Nicholas Sparks. I fell in love with the story he told about John and his dad. I am angry that Nicholas Sparks can't tell a story that doesn't involve some sort of endless, impossible, we-should-be-together-but-we-can't-be love story. Maybe that's because his stories are catered to the casual reader, and I suppose I can't fault someone for getting people to read when there several distractions exist. But I'm just never happy with the entirety of his books. Either the falling in love part takes too long, or the ending isn't what I wanted, or the plot twist makes me mad.

I talked with my boyfriend today about my favorite Nicholas Sparks' books and movies. My favorite book by far is "A Walk to Remember", which I read in one night during my junior year of high school. He pointed out that maybe the reason it was my favorite was because it was the first Nicholas Sparks book I had read. Maybe one was enough and I should never have picked up another. But I'm sure I'll do it again. (My favorite movie is "The Notebook", and that may only be because of the final scene with the old people. I just can't handle old people crying.)

-- Cheryl Sadler

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