(Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-0446547567)
The last thing that Ronnie wanted was to leave her friends and favorite haunts in NYC and spend her summer, along with her little brother, in Wrightsville Beach, NC, the home of their estranged father Steve. But she is only 17, and even though she has not talked to him in the three years since her parents divorced, she is given no choice in the matter. He is a pianist, once a teacher at Julliard, then a concert performer and composer, and she blames his traveling and weeks away from the family as the cause of the breakup. She is punishing him, not only by not speaking to him, but by giving up the piano at which she also excelled and undergoing a little rebellious phase, complete with purple streaked hair and black finger nails. Without question, it is going to be the worst summer of her life or so she thinks.
But very soon after arriving she meets Blaze, who seems like a kindred spirit, and her bad boy boyfriend Marcus. She also runs into, literally, the handsome, preppy Will and against her first judgment, finds herself liking him. It seems that not everyone is who they seem at first glance. As Ronnie finds, as she starts to learn more about herself, maybe she even made a few mistakes about her father. In fact, Ronnie learns she made have made a number of serious mistakes in her young life, but hopefully there will be time to make them right.
"For an instant, Ronnie felt a crush of memories overwhelm her: the fire and subsequent rebuilding of the church, the stained glass window, the song she finally finished. She though about Blaze and Scott and Marcus. She thought about Will. She was eighteen years old and remembering the summer she'd been betrayed, the summer she'd been arrested, the summer she'd fallen in love. It hadn't been so long ago, yet sometimes she felt that she'd been an altogether different person back then."But time is the most limited of resources...
I must say that I have never read a Nicholas Sparks book before, but when Miriam from Hachette suggested that I might like it due to the seaside setting, I was thrilled to take her up on the offer of a copy. And I must say, I loved the setting. A shacky house on the beach, turtles fighting their way from their nest to the sea, the beach from the hot summer to the cool autumn days...what's not to love. But that is not the only enjoyable thing about this book. Mr. Sparks is a good writer, there are some very good characters, and I must say even my cold, gray heart was moved by the touching ending. It is also very refreshing to have a mainstream book give a very positive example of the role of God and religion, and such themes as faith and redemption, in a person life.
Ok, that is the good news.
On the more negative side, there is something rather formula like about this book. I can't say for a fact, but I would not be surprised if there are more than a few similarities between this book and others of Sparks' books. It was almost as if you could see Sparks making a list "rebellious girl, bad boy, good boy, loving parent, life changing crisis, stalking, fire, cute animals...ok, all set." To my mind, he squeezed just a bit too much into the story, went just a bit too over the top, made it all just a bit too melodramatic. When I read that he originally wrote this as a screenplay and that at some point in the near future we will see this as a feature film starring teen idol Miley Cyrus, I can't say I was at all surprised. This one has Big Screen written all over it.
Bottom line, The Last Song is a perfect end of summer read if you are looking for a heart-warming, coming of age, first love tear jerker. Fans of Sparks will no doubt enjoy it. As a first time reader of Sparks' book, I must admit that it was pretty entertaining, although I doubt I will become a regular fan.
My thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for this book.