Sunday, January 26, 2014

Goodreads Review: "The Last Song" by Nicholas Sparks

The Last SongThe Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I absolutely hated "The Last Song." There are ways that this general plotline could have worked, but in the hands of Nicholas Sparks, it was an overwrought, contrived, schlocky mess.

"The Last Song" follows 17-year-old Ronnie, forced to spend the summer away from her home in New York City with her estranged father and her little brother, Jonah, in a small North Carolina town. On the surface, Ronnie is a troubled teen, not only because she occasionally shoplifts, but also because she *gasp* has a streak of purple in her hair and wears black, which Sparks is clear to point out about a dozen times or more in the course of the book.

Anyway, Ronnie's father, Steve, is a pianist, and Ronnie is a great piano player, too, but she has refused to play since her dad left. But soon she begins to soften, as she watches her dad and brother work on the stained glass window for the church up the beach that had burned down; as she guards a sea-turtle nest near the house; and as she slowly but surely falls in love with hot rich-guy Will. However, Ronnie has issues with some of the "bad kids" in town - the first friend she makes, Blaze, is dating a complete psychopath named Marcus, who takes a liking to Ronnie almost immediately.

I have a lot of issues with "The Last Song."

First of all, the main characters, Ronnie and Will, are bland. Ronnie is supposed to be this super troubled teen, which, as a concept, is both interesting and understandable in the context of her life, but Sparks cannot just let her be a bratty, bad kid who slowly learns a valuable lesson about life and love. Almost immediately, he has to let the audience know that she's not really such a bad person. She doesn't drink or take drugs like her friends back in New York, she's a vegetarian, and she loves puppies. Will, meanwhile, is obnoxiously perfect. His biggest fault in the whole book is that he cares too much about his friend, Scott. Gag.

The rest of the characters are complete caricatures. There is no shading, no quirks and nothing remotely interesting about them. They're just stock characters, and I felt absolutely no emotional attachment to them, nor was I remotely surprised by anything they did.

I also really resented the way that "The Last Song" seemed absolutely contrived to make the reader cry. I love to cry at good books, but reading a Nicholas Sparks book is like being beat over the head with a 2x4 while Sparks screeches, "CRY! You WILL cry! CRY AT THE TRAGEDY OF IT ALL!" It's disgusting.

The "big twists" at the end of the book were all atrociously transparent and easy to guess, and I'm terrible at guessing what a "twist" is going to be. The big tragedy was contrived and totally obvious, and the way that the characters in the book handled it was criminal.

(Spoiler Alert) The fact that Steve never told his children that he had terminal cancer for the three months they were staying with him, even though he had known his diagnosis for four months before they came, is just irresponsible, and no amount of explaining that he "wanted to get to know his children" makes that better. I didn't find it endearing - I couldn't help but think that it would be horrific to do that to someone, especially to your children. I had assumed through the book that he didn't know that he was terminally ill, and that he would find out when his children did, leading to some soul-searching together. Keeping that information from his children until he was hospitalized for it is selfish and cruel. I almost threw the book across the room at that point, and I had to stop reading it until the next day. If I hadn't been committed to finishing the book (I was reading it on what boiled down to a dare from my sister), I would have stopped right there and refused to pick it up again. (End Spoiler Alert)

I also didn't like the way that the religious references were shoehorned into the book in the most schlocky and awkward way ever. I like the idea of tackling the religious and spiritual implications of the things that happened in the book, but they were crammed in the book in the absolute most corny way possible. Gag.

"The Last Song" is a schlocky, corny, annoying mess that is insulting to the reader and incredibly annoying and infuriating to read. The story is contrived and it was obviously callously calculated to wrench the most tears from the readers. It's just plain gross. This book is absolutely terrible.

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