Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Which Trai Reviews 'The Last Song'

The Book: The Last Song

The Author: Nicholas Sparks

How I Found It: I was intrigued by the plot when I read the blurb upon its publication, and the trailer for the movie looked interesting.

The Review: Things I Should Never Think: "Surely, one of Nicholas Sparks' books won't make me cry like Dear John did again!"

Yep, I was wrong.

This book was written with the upcoming Miley Cyrus movie in mind-- Sparks wrote the screenplay and then the novel to go along with it. I beg anyone who is turned off by the Miley Cyrus aspect to give it a chance-- I didn't like the idea, either, but I'm really glad I gave the book a shot.

The Last Song is a story about Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, a seventeen-year-old New York girl with a lot of anger at the book's start. Her mother is driving her and her brother, Jonah, to their father's for the summer. For the past three years, since her parents' divorce, Ronnie has refused to speak to her father, Steve, believing he is responsible for everything that happened between her parents.

Kim, Ronnie's mother, explains to Steve that there was trouble back in New York-- Ronnie was caught shoplifting, and she worries for Ronnie's future as well as the trouble she might cause Steve. Steve assuages her fears and, once she leaves, begins to bond again with Jonah while Ronnie attempts to ignore them both.

While she stays away, she goes to a beach volleyball game and has soda spilled onto her (by accident) by a guy she will later know as Will. Another soda-soaking leads to her meeting Blaze, a girl her own age, and Blaze's controlling boyfriend Marcus.

The summer passes as Ronnie begins to learn about herself and others. She gets to know Will better as they bond over a nest of loggerhead turtles, and even finds herself falling in love. As things become clearer about Will, his family, and even Blaze and Marcus, Ronnie has to contend with disapproval, heartbreak, and her growing connection to her previously estranged father.

I really did enjoy the book, though it was a little difficult for me to believe Sparks' voice as a teenage girl sometimes. The dialogue often sounded just a little too polished, and I couldn't picture some of it coming from a teenager's mouth. I've been told many times that one of the most authentic parts of my own writing is the dialogue, so I'm usually sensitive to when it seems off. I think here was one of those cases-- Sparks was a little too far removed from being a teenager to write the dialogue convincingly, but he got the mindset down pretty well.

Besides that small criticism, the book was very emotional and I cared about the characters. I ended up keeping the box of tissues by me towards the end. I find myself wondering how, exactly, this might turn out as a Disney movie-- there is very serious stuff in here, including near-fatal burns and terminal illness, and a lot of the passages surrounding the illness were difficult to read (hence all the crying). I hope the movie does the subjects justice; it could be a great drama if it turns out well on screen.

I recommend the book to fans of Sparks' previous stories or to people who are looking for a place to start with his works. I think other teenagers could enjoy it as well, if only for the love story that seems to fit a lot of teenage relationships, especially summer romances. But hang onto the tissues; you'll need them.

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