Friday, 17 June 2016

Review: The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks

I’ve never really been a fan of Nicholas Sparks. [Pauses for gasps]. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I dislike his books, in fact I think he creates pretty good stories. It’s his writing style that I struggle with, and more specifically how clichéd it is. That’s not to say his plots are necessarily predictable, it’s more to do with the language, phrases and structuring of sentences that make up his novels. The Notebook is forever my go-to example of one of the only occasions where I have preferred a film adaptation to its source text.

However, I decided to give him another chance and try The Last Song, mostly because I’d seen another blogger mention that this was one of their all-time favourite books. And it wasn’t until I started to read it that I realised I must have watched the film, or at least some of it, before.

The Last Song is the story of Ronnie, a 17-year-old girl who is sent to spend the summer with her father, who she hasn’t seen in a number of years. As well as following her troubled relationship with her father and younger brother, the novel explores issues of friendship, trust, music, nature and inevitably focuses on a romance that develops in this small beach town.

As anticipated, I had all the same qualms when it came to Sparks’ writing style. Although you can see that his characters are complex in theory and have strong personalities and quirks, they come across frustratingly flat on the page and a little two dimensional, which in turn prevented me from building any real emotional connections. And though a lot of Ronnie’s flaws are clearly put down to her teenage ways, her moaning and rebellious attitude becomes a little tiresome and exaggerated.

Having said that, I do think that The Last Song has a great plot for its genre, and it explores a lot of important issues. Something Sparks does really well is developing Ronnie’s relationship with her father and setting up small details that latter become significant parts of the plot.

When reading the book, I noted that a lot of passages that were conversation-heavy read very much like a script, and it was easy to understand why Sparks’ novels translate so well onto the screen. I later found out that Sparks had in fact written The Last Song with the intention of adapting the story for the screen, as he’d been approached to write both. These script-like passages of the book made more sense knowing that he even finished writing the screenplay before the novel was completed.

It does make me wonder, though, whether Nicholas Sparks is perhaps a better scriptwriter than novelist…

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