I admit, Nicholas Sparks got me with The Notebook. I was 22, sitting alone in the back of my parents car coming home to Pennsylvania after visiting relatives in Illinois, and I devoured the whole thing, sobbing so much my parents almost pulled over the car. He totally got me, reeled me in. Hook. Line. Sinker.
The man is smart. He knows his prey...er, audience very well, knows exactly what "bait" to dangle in front of them. People fall in love, BIG, GRAND, EPIC ROMANCE LOVE. Throw in some horrible tragedy/obstacle/terminal illness. Add a bunch of corny, cheesy platitudes. Then drop thousand pound anvil of Major Life Lesson That Must Be Learned...over and over and over...and over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Voila! Best-selling author.
I would be lying if I said I didn't fall for this kind of formulaic writing. It's needed. Sometimes you just need predictable, romantic cheese. Obviously, or Nick Sparks wouldn't be a gazillion-jazillion-aire, or whatever. I won't pretend to be a literary snob who looks down on this genre of books. I have guilty pleasures, and I indulge. You all know you do, too.
HOWEVER. This book is UNNECESSARY. And EVIL. PURE EVIL.
And here's the part where I also won't pretend to be a rational human being when it comes to animals, or more specifically, animals of the canine variety. My husband and I have no children. Instead, we have three dogs. All rescues. I am one of Those Crazy Dog People. So, I will forewarn you, and fully admit, that my Absolute Hate of this book is fueled by my completely irrational and 5 year-old belief that Dogs Do Not Die. EVER. AT ALL. Even happily from old age (MARLEY I AM LOOKING AT YOU).
I mean, at 5 years-old, I bawled and my mom had to remove me from the movie theater during The Fox and the Hound because "We'll always be friends. FOREVER.". Except when I get older and have to hunt you down and kill you. LIES. ALL LIES. And no animals, dog or fox, were even killed in that movie.
So I'm assuming, if you've read this book, you get (from my looooong disclaimer) why I hurled it across the room when Nicholas Sparks went and MURDERED THE DOG. It's not enough to POISON him. No, to just make this book even that much more DRAMATIC, let's SHOOT HIM TOO. But, it'll be okay, because he died protecting his humans from a crazy stalker and his humans get to live Happily Ever After because of how brave the dog was. And that just makes it all better, doesn't it?
Is it wrong that I've rewritten the ending in my head where all the humans (It's been so long since I've read this, I've forgotten names)--Main Character, Love Interest, Crazy Stalker--all end up dead because they are humans and adults and they all should know better than to allow THEMSELVES, let alone an innocent dog, to get mixed up in all this stupid drama. And the dog MIRACULOUSLY lives and gets HIS Happily Ever After with a nice, stable family, who are smart enough not to get mixed up with Crazy Stalkers, and who have two children for him to play with and a big, fenced-in backyard.
That might be wrong of me, but I've already admitted my irrational love of dogs so my alternate ending shouldn't have been a surprise.
I apologize because I can't really offer any rational critique of this book. That all went out the window the moment he MURDERED THE DOG. I am way too blinded by my hate of this to offer anything else even remotely constructive or informative.
I haven't read another Nick Sparks book since The Guardian. And that was about seven or eight years ago. Have I mentioned I also hold irrational grudges against authors who murder dogs? This Grudge is so strong, I don't care what kind of cheesy bait he dangles, I will never bite again. Completely irrational, I know. But I like living in Irrational City. Dogs don't die there.