The Best of Me

By Nicholas Sparks

The Best of Me Review

Nicholas Sparks seems to have the romance novel formula down to a science, “The Best of Me” is his 7th novel. From having an attractive boy and girl from different sides of town meet and fall devastatingly in love, couple torn apart by war, parents, spouses, or traumatic past, and shocking tearjerker ending. Sparks has mastered the art of writing novels that tug at readers’ hearts, his novels have sold over 77 million copies worldwide.

In "The Best of Me," Sparks adds the presence of unexplained presences that help shape the characters’ lives. "The Best of Me" is about the characters being haunted by ghosts, past loves, and the possibilities of what could have been. In the end, readers might be left feeling haunted by the confusing undeveloped love story and dramatic conclusion.

"The Best of Me" tells the story of Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier. Amanda is the popular country gal of the small town of Oriental, North Carolina, raised in a rich family who has high expectations. Laying the foundation for a tragic love story, Dawson is poor and born into a family that traditionally breeds “moonshiners and drug dealers, alcoholics, wife beaters, abusive fathers and mothers, thieves and pimps, and above all, pathologically violent” members. The two met in high school and fell in love, but Amanda’s parent’s disapproved, which forced them apart. After high school they went separate ways.

Dawson and Amanda, for the next twenty years they are haunted by the memories of each other. Dawson still considers Amanda to be his one and only true love, even though he does not know that she is married and has children. While as a teenager Dawson suffered from physical abuse by his family, Amanda’s adult life brings suffering through emotional abuse by her husband, leading her to wonder what kind of life she would have had if she stayed with Dawson.

These possibilities of what could have been keep haunting the couple in their own lives. Amanda’s daughter loses her battle with brain cancer as a baby, pushing her marriage almost to a breaking point. Sparks brings in how alcoholism affects Amanda’s “perfect” family, presenting the possibility that her unhappy marriage might lead her back into Dawson’s arms. When Amanda and Dawson find themselves back in their hometown after Tuck’s death, the man who took Dawson in when he was a teenager. They are faced with their broken and desired teenage love affair. Unfortunately, Dawson’s abusive cousins know that he is back in town and are annoyingly obsessed with seeking revenge on him.

Dawson’s cousins, Abee and Ted. Sparks seems to struggle with creating believable evil characters, most likely because he is more use to writing about men who wish to sweep women off of their feet as opposed to men who wish to sweep the floor with another man’s face. Indeed, his tries to make fearful enemies come to a flat end. It is difficult to feel threatened by a character who dates a girl named Candy, and having a nickname of “little miss cheerleader” to be bad. Sparks uses these characters to bring more drama and create a heartbreaking ending, but it would have been better if they were characters that readers could really hate as opposed to just find plain annoying.

In addition, Sparks doesn’t focus too much on Dawson and Amanda’s young teenage relationship, it is hard to sympathize with and support their unrelenting forbidden passion for each another as adults. Readers must learn about the couple’s young love through flashbacks and tender reminiscences, not from being in the moment with the characters while their love is blossoming. With that being said it is hard to sympathize with and support their unrelenting forbidden passion for each another as adults. Focusing on the couple twenty years after their relationship instead of giving readers the opportunity to witness it as it grows allows the novel to escape being a teenage romance story, but sacrifices enough of the reader’s pity towards the couple. At one point, Amanda’s mother worries that her adult daughter’s behavior with Dawson is a repeat of her rebellious teenage years.

Surprisingly, the complicated, adult relationship between Amanda and her alcoholic husband Frank has more substance than Amanda’s teenage courtship with Dawson. Amanda and Frank’s relationship may be one of the most captivating relationships in any of his novels. But Amanda and Frank are a married couple dealing with the quick death of their child while raising three other children. Amanda and Frank’s relationship may not have the mind-blowing passion that Amanda feels with Dawson, but maybe because her twenty-year long marriage with Frank has been riddled with complications and emotions that she never had with Dawson. The novel focuses on a marriage with real-life pain as opposed to a teenage love reunion filled with anxieties of everything that never was.

I would recommend “The Best of Me” to anyone who is a fan of romance novels, or simply looking to branch out and would rate it 5/5 it took me on an emotional roller coaster throughout the whole book. It really shows you the different sides of love, and people’s view of what love is.

Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks was born in 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska. He was the second of three children born to Patrick Sparks, a college professor, and his wife Jill, Nicholas spent the early part of his childhood moving around with his family as his father finished up his graduate work. They lived in Minnesota, then Los Angeles, later Grand Island, Nebraska, and finally Fair Oaks, California, where the Sparks clan found a permanent home. Nicholas went on to graduate from high school there in 1984, becoming the class valedictorian.

Nicholas Sparks wrote his first unpublished novel while sidelined by a sports injury. He then attended the University of Notre Dame and went into sales. Business setbacks got him writing again and in 1995 he finished The Notebook, which was a best-seller and later turned into a hit movie. He followed this novel with Message in a Bottle, Nights in Rodanthe, The Longest Ride, and many others.

The Best of Me movie

The Best of Me is an American romantic drama film that was directed by Michael Hoffman and written by Will Fetters and J. Mills Goodloe, based on Nicholas Sparks' 2011 novel The Best of Me. It was released on October 17, 2014 by Relativity Media.