Great & Not-So-Great Literature

A Review of ‘Dear John,’ or, Why Nicholas Sparks Makes Me Want to Dry-Heave.

dearjohn

Yes, I realize how late the the party I am (yet again). Nicholas Sparks is old news at this point. But I still have opinions on him, and this is the Internet, dammit, so I’m going to share them whether you like it or not.

I’ve seen several movie versions of Nicholas Sparks novels in my short little life. The Notebook was well acted, but the story itself was too rushed and insipid for a second viewing. A Walk to Remember was cliché and ultimately didn’t give me that much to remember. The Last Song made me feel murderous feelings which I will not describe.

clint eastwood

Clearly, I have not had a favorable impression of Nicholas Sparks from this small sampling of his book-to-film adaptations. So when Dear John came out a few years ago, it should come as no surprise that I had little interest in seeing it. However, I happened across the book one day while sorting things for a rummage sale my church was having, and decided to borrow it out of a bizarre sense of fairness to the author. Since I was so adamant in my disgust for the man, but had never actually read any of the books that he’d written, I thought I ought to give him a chance before writing him off completely.

So I read it, wrote this review, let it sit in my hard drive for a few years, took it out today, dusted it off, and put it on the Internet. Because it’s been a year since I last fed my Blog Creature and I’m too lazy to write something from scratch.

Dear John was blah. Just blah. Granted, I first began reading the book already prejudiced against it, but I was secretly hoping it would turn out to be oddly brilliant, or at least one of those guilty pleasure-type books. I was miserably disappointed.

The story gets rolling with John (no duh), a troubled young man who joined the army because he was bored with his life and couldn’t think of anything else to do. On a two week leave, he goes home to visit his father, who has Asberger’s syndrome and a consequential obsession with coin collecting. During John’s stay he meets a young woman named Savannah. They have a little fling, and by the time the two weeks are up, they’re madly in love. Because this is a REALISTIC ROMANTIC DRAMA, GUYS.

marius loves you

John leaves Savannah with the promise that he’ll come back to her in a year. But the events of 9/11 end up changing his plans drastically. I’m sorely tempted to go ahead and spoil the rest of the plot for you, but I’m in a charitable mood tonight.

After hearing from various people what a great love story Dear John was, I was hoping for something at least somewhat substantive. What I got, however, was a namby-pamby romance in which the deepest feelings fail to rival those involved in a middle school crush. John’s ‘love’ for Savannah doesn’t seem to extend beyond how cute and nice she is, and how good she looks in a bikini. Maybe nowadays that’s what passes for a romance, but it just didn’t make the cut for me.

John had the potential to be such a complex character. A troubled youth who has a rocky relationship with his father, and suffers from problems with drinking and committing to women–all that sounds pretty darn interesting.

Unfortunately, John is as dull as talcum powder.

If he had a sense of humor, the whole book would have been improved significantly. As it is, John plods along through the story as if the events he is describing are the most boring and unexciting things he’s ever done. I tried reading it out loud at one point–I could hardly keep myself from speaking in a monotone.

 

Savannah. Okay, so she’s really really pretty, really really nice, does charity work, blah blah blah. But, to use yet another analogy, the woman has the depth of a kiddie pool. She hasn’t got any substantial personality quirks or flaws. She reminded me of frosting–so sweet it makes you sick. Blech.

The only really dynamic thing that Savannah does is towards the end of the book, when (spoiler alert) she practically throws herself at John and tries to manipulate him based on the feelings she knows he still has for her, even though she is now a married woman. Gross.

Dear John was a pretty tedious read. I don’t recommend it, except to say that it’s better than the old-fashioned sleeping pill.

So, after my year-long sabbatical (which I’m going to pretend was intentional, though in reality I forgot I even had a Blog Creature until yesterday), I hope you enjoyed my triumphant return to blabbing my pettifoggery all over the Internet. Hopefully I’ll manage to write something new in the semi-near future.

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