Monday, April 12, 2010
The Last Song: Nicholas Spark
The Last Song is a bit labyrinthine, with about a dozen plot lines to follow. I’ll try to touch on all of them, but don’t blame me if I forget to mention some of the finer nuances. To start with, there’s Ronnie; a seventeen-year-old New York teenager with anger issues who only wears black—even in the dead heat of a humid summer. She’s the bitter child of divorce who hasn’t spoken a word to her father in three years. Ronnie is now being shuttled off to her father’s house on the coast of Connecticut, along with her ten-year-old brother, Jonah. Ronnie is predictably pissed about it. Ronnie’s dad, Steve, is a pianist. A great one, apparently, and he taught Ronnie how to play. Ronnie has some God-given talent for music, but she quit playing piano when her father left. So she arrives in Connecticut and ignores her father for three solid days. She falls in with the wrong crowd, including people named Blaze and Marcus. There’s jealousy and crime and Ronnie ends up in trouble with the law. Turns out, her dad’s cool about it and believes her when she says she’s innocent. Ronnie is shocked! An adult who trusts a teenager?! There’s no such thing on Planet Teen! And so begins the reparation of Ronnie’s relationship with her father.
Meanwhile, Ronnie meets Will who is a preppy rich kid. They are intrigued by each other. Will turns out to be a volunteer at the Aquarium and he shows up again after she reports a sea turtle nest behind her house. What a coincidence. And so begins a brand new relationship between Ronnie and Will. No wait, it’s not a relationship, it’s Real, True Love. Between teenagers. Excuse me while I doubt the validity of teenage romance for a moment.
There are a dozen or so other little storylines, including a wedding, a girl set on fire, and a kindly pastor of the church that was burned to the ground. In many ways it’s far too much like real life—too much happening at the same time. Which is barely manageable in real life, and downright frustrating in a novel.
In my opinion, Nicholas Sparks is a terrible writer, but he is a fantastic story-teller. He tends to directly tell the reader what a character is feeling rather than allow their actions or dialogue to describe what’s going on with them. The Last Song is no exception to this theory, however, it does show some growth of Sparks’ writing abilities. There is definitely a lot more expressive dialogue than some of his other novels, although much of it is so very cliché. Yes, angry teenagers do exist and they say a lot of the same things and do a lot of the same stupid things, but c’mon man, you’re a writer! Stretch the ol’ creativity muscle!
Long before I even considered reading this book, I knew that Sparks wrote it for Miley Cyrus. He wrote the role of Ronnie based on the pop star, and it was obvious on every page that he put very little effort into creating Ronnie’s character, probably assuming that Cyrus would automatically portray the angsty, conflicted teenager without much coaxing. For that matter, the rest of the characters lay flat on the page. If Marcus wasn’t directly described as a sociopath, I wouldn’t have known it to be part of his character. Blaze is a confusing character who makes snarky comments and smiles a lot. Whatever that means. Even the love interest, Will, seems to be kind of bland. He’s basically just a pretty, rich boy who tries to prove he’s more than just a pretty, rich boy.
Overall reaction? It kept me interested enough that I read through it quickly. The story is poignant, and will likely make for a lot of tears at the cinema…which is what we expect from Nicholas Sparks now, isn’t it?
Rating: $ ¾…..meaning if you like this kind of thing, go ahead and check it out at the library. If you prefer less formulaic novels, skip it.