Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'A Walk to Remember'

The Book: A Walk to Remember

The Author: Nicholas Sparks

How I Found It: This one's kinda self-explanatory. The movie's huge, without reading this and The Notebook I felt as though I was missing something, and when a friend and I were discussing The Last Song, she mentioned I should read it.

The Review: It's shocking, I know, but somehow I've reached nineteen years old without seeing A Walk to Remember when it's one of the biggest teen movies of the last decade. You can all laugh at me now. But I wasn't the hopeless romantic I am today until I was about 16, so until then I avoided this stuff like the plague.

That being said, I will repeat my Dear John disclaimer: I'm not a rabid fan of Sparks; I think his work is hit or miss for me. I really, really liked Dear John and The Last Song, but this book and The Notebook were just okay.

Everyone probably knows the plot of this one through osmosis, but I will recap: Unlike the movie, this takes place in the 1950s. Landon Carter is what counts as a bad boy in those times. He doesn't do anything really harmful, just plays a couple pranks with his friends and hangs out in the cemetery at night.

Everyone in town knows the local Baptist minister's daughter, Jamie Sullivan, who is so saintly she seems to put everyone to shame. She loves helping people, animals, you name it. Jamie's father writes a Christmas play for the town, which is performed by some of the high school seniors each year. When Landon gets roped into performing it along with Jamie, Jamie makes him promise one thing-- that he won't fall in love with her.

Despite Jamie's warning, Landon ends up having to spend more time with her as the days go on, and before long, Landon realizes his opinion of her may have been misinformed. She isn't weird, just a genuinely good person. And Landon may actually be falling for her-- which is a problem in itself given what Jamie is hiding.

Okay. So this is Sparks' third book, after The Notebook and Message in a Bottle. And it's also pretty short-- the trade paperback edition I have is 207 pages. Compare this to The Last Song, written ten years later, which, at 390 pages, is his longest work to date. Yeah. I think he started to realize the books had to be a little longer as he went on.

As the books of his I've read go, this one was very simplistic. Basically, it's a coming of age story as Landon matures into a responsible young man, and it's the love story of Landon and Jamie. That's about it. I felt like there could've been more than that, but I guess there didn't have to be.

The problem I had was that Jamie was a little too Mary Sue-ish (read: perfect) for me. She's just so religious and so cheery and peppy about everything that Good God, I don't know if I could've put up with her. I mean, it's admirable considering what's found out later in the book, but still. Give the girl some faults.

I guess that was another problem I had with it-- Jamie had no faults, probably because she's based on Sparks' sister, the inspiration behind the book. Perhaps Sparks didn't want to tarnish her memory by giving Jamie faults of any kind. Or maybe we're supposed to believe Landon's blinded by love, but I don't think that's the case if the whole town feels the same way. I just felt like Landon had a decent amount of depth, but that Jamie was just kinda... there.

I might have complained in my Dear John review about how I feel about Sparks' ability to write secondary characters-- it's not too good. In The Notebook and this book, the secondary characters really felt like wallpaper, there only to further the plot. I think he got better at this as he went on, but even in Dear John, Tim was still that way. The best I've seen him do was The Last Song, and that was because with multiple narrators, character development HAD to happen.

It was a nice story, very sweet and heartwarming, but it left me completely dry-eyed, and I'm a girl who can get pretty emotional. I don't get it. The books I hear are his biggest tearjerkers leave me cold (The Notebook made me shed a single tear and the movie didn't make me cry at all), but the ones like Dear John and The Last Song are the ones that really get to me. I think it's because this one I couldn't really relate to-- there were instances in Dear John and The Last Song that hit close to home, and that's why they got me.

Overall, I liked it enough, but it just wasn't Sparks' best. A decent story about young love, but I'd recommend The Last Song over this one-- it tackles almost the same issues in a different and better way, in my opinion. Still, though, I'd recommend it to fans of Sparks, if not really anyone else who might not like slightly sappy love stories.

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