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Dear John

A book by Nicholas Sparks

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SImple and Sweet

  • Jul 12, 2010
Nicholas Sparks has always been a safe writer.  One who decides it's best to stick to the familiar and what people know rather than trying too hard to challenge them.  There are times when Sparks approach leads to some simple yet incredibly good stories (The Notebook or even A Walk to Remember) and other times it leads to relatively boring books (such as The Choice).  For the most part Sparks has a fairly good track record.  It can get annoying to read some of his stories, but he has a way of making sure his characters aren't so bad and that he keeps going with the plot.  He has a way with language, even if he still has his struggles with storytelling.

Dear John is like many of his works.  It's pretty typical.  John Tyree was a rebel as a kid, who didn't know what to do with his life after he got out of high school and so he did the only thing he could.  He joined the army.  While he's on leave in North Carolina, he meets a girl named Savannah Lynn Curtis.  He's also back seeing his father.  John has grown thanks to the army... and matured.  At least enough to appreciate his father better.  Savannah is young women volunteering with habitat for humanity.  John meets her after diving into the water to get her purse for her.  They soon strike up a good friendship and eventually fall in love.  John then decides that when he's done with his service he'll come back to her.  Except no one can foresee 9/11 coming.  And when it happens, John decides to re-enlist to fight for his country.  This keeps him away from Savannah for a while longer.  With the distance between them (not to mention the years until they can be together again) all they can do is write to one another.  At some point, however, Savannah realizes that she can't take the distance.  She simply can't wait.  And so when John gets a "Dear John," letter things get awkward.  Especially when he's finally discharged.

The story goes a little further when John goes back and there's actually a bit more to the story.  As is usual for Nicholas Sparks... there's nothing complicated or complex about it.  In fact until about the moment when John gets his Dear John letter it's typical of everything Sparks has done.  There's nothing original here.  Sparks doesn't dive into the original.  On the other hand, what he does do is bring us a good cast of characters.  Sparks plays it safe but at least he's dealing with characters in which he can.  The characters are actually not so bad on their own.  John in particular is a good character.  Perhaps one of the more likable and well developed that Sparks has done.

If anything the annoying part about Dear John is that once again Sparks just isn't doing a whole lot to go beyond the traditional type of love stories.  Dear John in particular is a painful cliche.  A VERY painful one.  How many stories do we know of already in which someone fights for their country and the one they left behind decides to leave them?  They've been writing sappy love stories like this forever.  The characters are likable, but the overall premise Sparks draws upon is not really all that amusing.  On the other hand, at least Sparks isn't trying too hard to give us the same old typical happy ending. 

People who watch Nicholas Sparks movies seem to thin he's somehow obsessed with making love stories with sad endings.  It's actually not the case.  In The Notebook for example... the movie ends very differently from the book.  Other books which have a happy ending aren't exactly adapted into movies.  Because they're not half as touching for the audience they want to get.  When Hollywood goes to Nicholas Sparks (which hasn't been that many times, but thanks to three quick shots in a row... and The Notebook people don't seem to realize he hasn't had very many adaptations in comparison to his body of work at all) they often want to adapt the stories in which really sad things happen.  Which is why I'm surprised they adapted Dear John of all stories.  Nicholas Sparks either goes for a Happy Ending, a Bittersweet or a Tragic one (in which case one of the lovers dies). 

Dear John goes for the Bittersweet.  It's not happy... it's not sad but there's something hopeful about it.  There's enough charm in the characters and the second half makes things a little easy to swallow.  That's not to say Sparks doesn't try to pull at your heartstrings... it's just to say that those expecting one of the lovers to die at the end of everyone of his books has been paying far too much attention to the movies where the ending was changed to make this true... or they haven't picked up any of his books to begin with.  If that's the case you've wasted time reading this review already (go figure) but Dear John is actually not as ridiculously sappy as much of Sparks' other works.  Those who don't actually read Nicholas Sparks aren't aware of his works in which one of the focal lovers doesn't die. 

It's not really a spoiler to say this about Dear John.  The story is about love, loss and moving on.  To kill off one of the main characters would've made for a ridiculous ending to a story that Sparks clearly wasn't gearing up for as he put it to paper.  There's death in Dear John... as there are in many books, but it's not exactly used as a gimmick or as a cheap shot to your heartstrings.  Again, this is something that people who don't typically read Sparks don't actually know as it is.  Dear John doesn't go for the jugular here.  It doesn't have to.  Not for what it tries to convey.  It's a good story, even if a bit cliche.  The characters make it worthwhile and in the second half, at least Nicholas Sparks is trying for something a little different and out of the ordinary.  I can give him credit for having a control of language, but I'm still waiting for bigger more daring ideas from Nicholas Sparks.

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July 16, 2010
Thought I'd stop by and check out your review after I saw Aerin's. I don't think this is exactly for me but I will keep it in mind. Did you see the movie?
July 16, 2010
No, I didn't see the movie.  Nicholas Sparks movies aren't always for me.  They're filled to the brim with bad acting, horrible scripts and they haven't grasped the concept that a lover doesn't ALWAYS die at the end of one of his books.  I'm guessing that one of the two dies at the end of Dear John... or that SOMEONE dies that didn't die in the book as a means to milk tears from the audience.  It takes a lot of tolerance for some of Sparks.  He writes some clever things (like The Notebook, although that movie was good... it was VERY different from the book) and then he writes other stuff that doesn't really illicit much.
July 16, 2010
Hm. I didn't know that. That is a great comment, but I may check it out since I like Seyfried. We'll see....
July 16, 2010
I'll check it out if I don't have to pay. LOL
More Dear John (book) reviews
review by . June 16, 2010
Nicholas Sparks is famous for making women cry when they read his novels. The depth of emotion and eloquence with which he describes the emotions tearing at his characters' souls makes him one of my favorite authors on my bookshelf. This was one of the most moving novels I have read in a long time.      This is the story of John, a high-school dropout, troublemaker turned Army hotshot. His father was never able to help him break his behavior due …
review by . June 02, 2010
This is a Nicholas Sparks book, so be sure to have tissue close by.  I think this book truly captured my heart and soul because of the age of the characters, the setting, and other topics in this books that I have a particular interest in.  I actually picked up this book at a random garage sale for a .25.  Little did I know it would end up being one of my most favorite books, lent out to many of my friends, but always making sure to get it back.  I think that is how the …
review by . June 17, 2010
     I picked up this book thinking/hoping it would be in the same style as every Nicholas Sparks book. While that may sound boring, I have grown to love his classic, romantic style and the slight predictability of his writing. I was unpleasantly surprised with this novel. Usually reading Sparks' books gives me pleasure and that 'can't put it down' compulsion until I've devoured every word. Again, not this time. The book started off at a good pace, telling …
review by . June 23, 2010
This book was depressing. Right from the first page, you know it it not going to end well. This writing technique puts a pall over the entire book. I read the book before I saw the movie. More about that later.   So, the girl in the story is a little high maintenance. She didn't love John as much as he loved her. She found it too difficult to be away from him while he was away from home fighting for our country; he re-upped after 9/11 - had to or he wouldn't have been the good …
review by . July 07, 2010
As always, the book was far better than the movie. The leads seemed like they would have done a fabulous job and in fact I thought the movie looked like it was going to be extremely good but /I have to say the book was way better. Not to mention, the movie was hardly accurate. Anyways...   the book is about a girl and a boy who meet, fall in love, etc etc. Fairly familiar plot but the boy is in the army and so to keep things interesting, they write letters back and forth …
review by . June 17, 2010
What I love about this book, is the essence of reality.  It really explores the lives of two individuals who fit the mold for the average Joe as well as revealing the ugly traits that are connected with long distance relationships.  The truth shines through in every word throughout this story.       One cannot begin to imagine what life holds for those who are fighting for the life we so inadvertently take for granted.  And even more than that, there is no …
review by . July 07, 2010
   Semi Spoiler if you have NO idea what this books about....            I very much enjoyed this book. I had a very hard getting through the first half. I let all the things I had heard about get into my head. Everyone told to expect disapointment. But I have to say, it was perfect. A true love story. A real one. Yes, sad. My heart ached, I cried. But overall, it was simply marvelous. Life doesnt always have the sweet happy endings people like …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
This book was much better than I expected. For me, Nicholas Sparks novels are a hit or miss. I don't like several of them and am only fond of a few. This is one that I will read again.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
A good book. Much better than the movie. The ending of the book was not what I wanted it to be, but most things in life aren't! Sparks is always realistic in his books, and I like that.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
hahahaaha i like this movie
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this book


Dear John is a novel that was published in 2006 and written by American author Nicholas Sparks. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina and Lenoir, North Carolina from 2000 to 2006, the three-part novel begins with 23-year-old John Tyree, an army veteran who is on leave while staying with his father in his home town, and explores the common romance theme of love after loss, involving a couple who meet at a beach one summer and eventually become separated by war. The pair individually endure family health issues and social obstacles, all the while struggling to reconcile their love for each other. A film adaptation of the novel, directed by Lasse Hallström, was released in 2010.
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ISBN-10: 0446528056
ISBN-13: 978-0446528054
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: History
Publisher: Warner Books
Date Published: November 24, 2009
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