Confessions of a Part-time Reviewer

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Tuning in to a ‘Song’ of Unexpected Harmony April 20, 2010

Filed under: Adult Review — adkennison @ 5:16 am
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Need another reason to hate Miley Cyrus? 

     After reading the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, The Last Song, I found one.  Her presence in the movie adaptation has ruined my prospects of seeing of my new favorite Nicholas Sparks translates into film. 

     Sparks’s newest novel follows disgruntled, fiery seventeen-year-old Ronnie as she spends summer far away from her native New York City in a tiny beach town in North Carolina.  Exiled to the south to spend some quality time with her estranged father, Ronnie is anything but pleased with the arrangement.  In three short months Ronnie maneuvers through the complex chaos of love: first love, familial love, platonic love, and most importantly self-love. 

     In trademark form Sparks explores what makes up the essence of life, mixing together the decay of past romance with the budding promise of young love, examining the impossible strength of a parent’s love and commitment to his child, and reminding readers of the cruel difficulties that go along with forging a personal identity.  The author’s masterful handling of intense emotional baggage and uncanny insight into the female perspective—especially the teenage female—proves unsettling.  Sparks seems to understand women and love better more comprehensively than any woman actually does. 

     Through the story readers are forced to align themselves, often unwillingly, with a restless protagonist.  Unlike most of Sparks’ past heroines, Ronnie isn’t easy to get along with—the bratty, rebellious teenager persona characterized a little too well.  And yet, somehow by the end, a brilliant transformation occurs and you are almost guaranteed to forget how painfully annoying the girl was for the first hundred pages or so. 

     What saves this novel from being a completely cliché coming-of-age, recognizing that the parent is always right story, is Sparks capacity to bring together a group of distinctly flawed characters and somehow turn their excess of discord and discontent into a web of nurturing necessity.  Grant it, Sparks borrows from the arsenal of stock characters: the unruly teenager, the golden boy next door, the spunky younger brother, the withdrawn but trying father, but he saves his story from falling into the ranks of forgettable fiction by infusing his creations and their respective stories with bittersweet release. This isn’t a happy-ever-after tale.  Readers have to suffer for any sense of warmth that they can extract from the cold marrow of the book. 

     But producing happiness isn’t on Sparks’s agenda.  Instead, readers are introduced to how delicious disappointment and desperation can be.  Nothing worthwhile in life is easy or uncomplicated.  In The Last Song Sparks teachers readers that it is only through experiencing struggle and true helplessness that people gain the insight to recognize who they are, what they want, and the significance of lasting relationships. 

     For those of you familiar with Sparks’s work, you know that a book wouldn’t really be his unless tears are shed somewhere along the way.  Unless you are heartless and/or incapable of feeling human emotion, this story will definitely tug at your heartstrings.  Readers won’t be able to put the book down, as Sparks skillfully and apparently cruelly leads his audience through a story so rich and raw that the final pages will echo throughout their head and hearts for days afterward.

Titles of a Similar Thread:


Someone Like You, Sarah Dessen




Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson




House Rules, Jodi Picoult