Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

October 25, 2009

dear john-1 Plot summary (with spoilers): While home on leave from the Army, 23-year-old John Tyree meets the girl of his dreams. Her name is Savannah, and she’s a 21-year-old college student at the University of North Carolina. The two meet on the beach at Wilmington, where John was riding some waves as Savannah hung out on the sand with a handful of other volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. After John rescues Savannah’s purse from the ocean, the two get to talking, and then eventually go out on a date.

The relationship progresses very quickly, as it must since John will have to return to Germany in one week. During their time together, John and Savannah get to know each other, declare their love for each other, and even become unofficially engaged. John has one year of service left before he can be honorably discharged, so the two promise to wait for each other.

But then September 11 happens, and John, riding a wave of patriotism, decides to re-enlist. This stings Savannah, but she understands his motivation, and continues to wait. However, John notices that their letters to each other become less frequent and Savannah’s become less intimate. Soon enough, he gets the dreaded “Dear John” letter notifying him that Savannah has fallen for someone else.

John doesn’t respond to that letter. Instead, he throws himself into being a good soldier, re-ups yet again, and stays away from North Carolina for 3 more years. It’s only when he returns home for his father’s funeral that he decides to look Savannah up again. That’s when he learns that she married longtime friend Tim, who is stricken with melanoma. As John and Savannah become reacquainted while Tim is stuck in the hospital, John has a chance to truly evaluate his feelings for Savannah. He decides that he wants her to be happy, which means not breaking up the marriage. He anonymously donates money for treatment that will save Tim’s life, and then checks back in a couple years to see that that Savannah and Tim are indeed happy.

Against the backdrop of John and Savannah’s relationship, we also get some insight into John’s relationship with his father, who is probably afflicted with Asperger’s. Mr. Tyree’s one great passion in life was collecting coins, which is something John could never understand. But after Savannah points out that the man might have Asperger’s, John comes to look at his father differently, finally accepting him for who and what he is.


  • I liked that this didn’t have the traditional happy ending that Sparks seems to favor so much in his novels. As soon as Tim gave his blessing for John and Savannah to be together if he died, I was worried about what the ending might hold. But Sparks gave readers a bit of a twist there.


  • The characters weren’t very believable or likable. Once again we have these two people, these complete opposites who are at very different stages in their lives, declaring their undying love for each other within a few days of meeting. Are there any Sparks novels that show love developing over a longer period of time, which is how it most often happens in real life? The love-at-first-sight scenario is so played out.
  • John was the prototypical Sparks leading man: rough around the edges, a seeming lunkhead who would be more interested in modding his ride with cool car accessories than cultivating his relationship with his girlfriend, from a poor or working-class family, who really has a heart of gold. Borrrring!
  • Since I wasn’t at all invested in the characters, I didn’t really care if they ended up together or not. In fact, both of them were so annoying by that point that I just hoped they’d both be miserable. Since John was flat-out stalking Savannah in that last scene, I guess at least half my wish came true!

Nicholas Sparks doesn’t deliver anything fresh or original in Dear John. If you’re familiar with his other works, then you’ll probably already “know” these characters and their situation. The non-happy ending was a bit of a surprise, but by the time you get there, you probably won’t care anyway. I give this novel 2 stars out of 5.

3 Responses to “Dear John by Nicholas Sparks”

  1. I loved this book and all of the characters in it. Nicholas Sparks is also one of my many favorite authors. He has done an amazing job at writing all of his books. I hope to see a sequal for Dear John someday.

  2. I loved this story but the one thing is if you really love someone you wait if it takes a lifetime. Savannah did not wait and she should not have married a man out of pity for that is what is seems to be. John is lucky she ditched him before he left the Army which is the only family he has now his mother and father are not in his life.

  3. hello. i am an Iranian girl.I have not known Nicholas sparks up to now.I watched this movie 1 week ago.I will have a lecture on monday and i decided to explain this story because i think it is attractive.wish me luck.sorry for bad writing.

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