Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm a Sucker for a Happy Ending

Last month, Kylie, Courtney #2 (by which I mean, not Kyle's sister, but Kylie's cousin) and I went to see The Last Song in theaters.  We didn't expect much.  I'm not much of a fan of most of Nicholas Sparks' books, and movie adaptations are typically poor imitations of any plot.  That, added to the fact that Disney's Miley Cyrus portrays the protagonist was enough to make me slightly prejudiced.  But beyond that, I feel like most of Sparks' work is generic and disappointing.

However, with this movie I was pleasantly surprised.  Miley wasn't half bad.  I mean, she wasn't brilliant by any means, but it was a definite step up from Hannah Montana.  Better yet, I actually got sucked into the story.  It follows a lot of cliches and definitely couldn't be called "one of a kind," but it was real, it was believable and it had a happy(ish) ending.  That, my friends, is pretty much the criteria for a Carrie-approved movie.

So of course I had to read the book.  It was a pleasant surprise too.  Since good ol' Nick worked with the script, it follows the same basic plot as the movie, but as books always are, it was much better developed. 

Of course, the book is filled with the ocean scenery, summer love and family ties that are ever-present in a Nicholas Sparks novel.  The scene work and characters were satisfying, fleshed out just enough to feel real.  Readers follow Ronnie's first romance and coming of age, and spares us none of her struggles.  That's one of the book's redeeming qualities:  It doesn't dress up pain as if it were "honorable."  It lays it all out in black and white.

The book opens with Ronnie (short for Veronica) packing her bags to head back home to New York, talking ominously about the past summer with her mother.  The scene cuts and we are led to assume that what follows is the story of the memorable months through Ronnie's eyes, but with flashes from the perspectives of the two men in her life:  her dad and boyfriend.  The way the story jumps from character to character was refreshing, providing welcome insights into the minds of the people in our protagonist's life.  We witness Ronnie grow up during a hot North Carolina summer spent (rather reluctantly at first) with her father, years after her parents' divorce.  Her little brother is along for the ride, sprinkling childish innocence and humor throughout the novel.

Ronnie's reluctance and bitterness toward her father fade fast when she falls for the typical male lead:  tall, tan, rich and charming.  Ironically, but a bit cliche, he isn't her type at all.  Ronnie sports a shoplifting record, a purple streak in her hair, and a biting attitude.  Somehow, the opposites attract and our heroine comes to learn lessons in life, love and marine biology.  (In a series of particularly adorable scenes, the young couple work together to save a nest of sea turtle eggs.)

The real kicker in this novel comes when Ronnie discovers that her father is a terminal cancer patient.  This is the part in both movie and book that allowed the story to work its way into my heart.  The sometimes pained father-daughter dynamic was brilliantly done.  All appropriate bitterness, resentment and overwhelming love were woven together to demonstrate the beautiful power of forgiveness in a conclusion that most definitely had me reaching for the tissues.

While the book has its faults (like a couple stereotype-driven characters and a few melodramatic sub-plots) it certainly shines next to the other Sparks novels I've read.  The focus on family saved it for me, in the end.  Plus, you know, it has a decent ending.  So everybody (by which I mean me) goes home happy.  If you have some spare time this summer, you should give it a try.  It makes a nice light read.

5 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to read this book and see the movie. I'm a sucker for some of these puffy romances, especially to escape from the every day.

    Thanks for the review!

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  2. lol. It's an exception to my anti-Nicholas Sparks rule. ;) Go for it!

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  3. i read this book a while back, and still havent gotten around to watching the movie. i wasnt sure if it would be worth it.

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  4. I've read a lot of his books but I haven't read this one yet. As soon as I do, I'm going to watch the movie!

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  5. Sarah, the book was better, but the movie was decent. Check it out, if for no other reason, just to say you have. ;)

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