The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

April 25, 2013

best of me sparks Plot summary (from the publisher): In the spring of 1984, high school students Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fell deeply, irrevocably in love. Though they were from opposite sides of the tracks, their love for one another seemed to defy the realities of life in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina. But as the summer of their senior year came to a close, unforeseen events would tear the young couple apart, setting them on radically divergent paths.

Now, twenty-five years later, Amanda and Dawson are summoned back to Oriental for the funeral of Tuck Hostetler, the mentor who once gave shelter to their high school romance. Neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever changed their lives. As Amanda and Dawson carry out the instructions Tuck left behind for them, they realize that everything they thought they knew — about Tuck, about themselves, and about the dreams they held dear — was not as it seemed. Forced to confront painful memories, the two former lovers will discover undeniable truths about the choices they have made. And in the course of a single, searing weekend, they will ask of the living, and the dead: Can love truly rewrite the past?

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I liked that Dawson and Amanda didn’t end up together. Even though the ending Sparks chose to use was just as predictable after a certain point, it was better than finding some contrivance that would make Amanda leave her husband to be with Dawson.
  • Despite not wanting Dawson and Amanda to be together, I did enjoy the time they spent getting reacquainted and catching up on each other’s lives. Those scenes were probably the most realistic in the entire book.

Disliked:

  • I never go out of my way to make predictions about where a story is headed, but I could see both main plot “twists” coming from a mile ahead. First, I knew the shadowy figure Tuck kept seeing was the doctor he accidentally killed in the car accident. As soon as that accident was mentioned, I knew the “man” was actually the doctor’s ghost. Second, as soon as it was revealed that Amanda’s son would need an emergency heart transplant, I knew Dawson would be the donor. Why else would he be set up as having such a lonely, solitary existence with no family, no future, etc.? Too easy.
  • We’re supposed to believe that a good-looking guy like Dawson never dated anyone after Amanda??? He essentially lived a celibate life for 25 years because he still felt something for his high school sweetheart (even though she moved on remarried)? I’m sure that looked romantic on paper when Sparks was outlining the book, but gimme a break.
  • I hate how Sparks gave Amanda’s husband all kinds of flaws. Why did Frank have to be an alcoholic who barely paid attention to his wife anymore? Why can’t any of Sparks’ characters go on to marry decent, loving, caring people after separating from their first youthful love? I mean, it’s clearly so readers will root for the main couple to get back together, but it’s just so, so, played out.
  • Speaking of played out, you’d think Sparks would be tired of trying to come up with all these different hyperbolic ways to describe how singular a couple’s love and devotion was. In every single book he writes, there’s some big speech or internal monologue about what love means. Yeah, that’s his bread and butter, but the sentiment has lost its impact on me.
  • The whole subplot with Dawson’s killer cousins was just stupid and annoying — not to mention exceedingly violent and out of place in a book like this.

Rating:

Even though I haven’t exactly loved any of the Nicholas Sparks books I’ve read (though I’ve enjoyed several), I keep coming back because he’s so damn popular. It makes me feel as though I’m missing something about the writing or the characters or the plot. What is it that people find so great about these books? I find most of them repetitive, tiresome, and maudlin. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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