Nicholas Sparks is No Bodice Ripper: BBE chats Dear John
Quick Links from the Episode
- Dear John the movie came out in 2010. For some amusing reviews, check out the Rotten Tomatoes page.
- The other movie Jennifer mentioned like ten other times in this episode was Safe Haven, which came out in 2013. Again, see the Rotten Tomatoes page for more.
- Nicholas Sparks’ Wikipedia page has a list of his works in order of publication, as well as a chart of movie adaptations that has some fascinating stats on critics ratings, production budget, and overall gross of each film.
- To learn more about Sparks, check out the About page on his website, which Jennifer found to be more grating than most author about pages she has read to date.
- As for the topic of how tame Nicholas Sparks books are, Jennifer didn’t find anything relevant. HOWEVER, she did find articles about the lawsuit that Sparks was embroiled in for over five years. Sparks was accused of wrongdoing in the termination of the principal of his Christian academy, Epiphany School of Global Studies. While Sparks was deemed not guilty of these charges, the trial did lead to the surfacing of numerous anti-LGBTQ emails written by Sparks.
Years and years ago, as many of our stories begin, Jennifer had read A Walk to Remember and thought it was a very good – if heart-wrenching – book. Fast forward to the 2010’s and Nicholas Sparks movies were all the rage. The Notebook, featuring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, was already a classic for girls nights everywhere and by casting Channing Tatum as the titular character for Dear John, future adaptations seemed to be destined for success.
With all the hype, Jennifer figured she would try reading Dear John before watching the movie…and was brought immediately to a crashing halt. Why was she being forced to read all these descriptions of beaches? What was all this discussion about coin collecting doing in her romance book?? A now common theme for Jennifer’s Books We Hate picks, she never finished Dear John. It was simply not compelling enough to continue through the parts that caused her extreme boredom. As Paige is not the sentimental type and is more prone to enjoy a good action book than romance, in a fit of whimsy Jennifer decided to assign it – with truly shocking results.
Nicholas Sparks is the successful author of a whole host of eerily similar romance books. Excuse us, Sparks classifies his works as “love stories” rather than romance novels. These are apparently two different sub-genres, where romance is more limited to a single theme of “the taming of a man,” but love stories can be broader in scope and are not required to have a happy ending. Certainly anyone who has read a Nicholas Sparks book knows that happy endings are few and far between, Dear John being no exception.
With millions of copies sold, eleven movie adaptations, and now even a Broadway show based on The Notebook, Sparks represents the kind of success that many authors aspire to, though rarely achieve. Sparks’ first blush of fame actually came from a very different arena than writing: running. Turns out Sparks was a bit of a track and field star while attending the University of Notre Dame. Sparks still enjoys running to this day, and even coached high school track and field for several years in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until he turned 28 that he found success with his first published novel, The Notebook. Today, Sparks continues to be prolific in producing chart-topping bestsellers which he attributes to a strict writing schedule – all aspiring authors take note!
Main Points From The Episode
- Neither Paige nor Jennifer were overly impressed with the relationship dynamics present in Dear John. Constant fighting, John’s unwillingness to communicate (Jennifer terms it “stoic and stupid”), and the classic expecting changing circumstances to improve the relationship. Bottom line, this is not a relationship BBE believes one should aspire to, though undoubtedly many people do.
- At first, it would appear that Tim’s the worst: a perfect example of the emotional manipulation of the reader. Paige directs much of her rage over the outcome of Dear John towards Tim, the childhood best friend of Savannah who gets in the way of our preferred ship: Savannah and John. Jennifer points out that of course the reader is going to place this seemingly wonderful human being in the crosshairs of their ire because he is the reason their ship remains tragically unfulfilled. In reality, this frustration should be directed elsewhere. However, this didn’t mean that Paige didn’t want Tim to conveniently disappear from the story. So Sparks was successful in that regard.
- Wait, is John the worst? Upon further reflection, BBE firmly decides that John is not a man anyone should date. There are multiple points in the story where John fails at just being a human, plus there’s the spying/stalking of Savannah YEARS after they have broken up. We are sure that is meant to imply dedication and make the story pack more emotional punch, but really it’s creepy and John needs to move on.
- By the end of the episode, Jennifer decided that actually Savannah is the worst, the real villain of this story. Savannah is put on this pedestal of perfection, she’s so sweet and caring, right? But then cut forward to almost hooking-up with John while Tim is LITERALLY DYING in the hospital. The manufactured drama of this moment sends Jennifer’s eyes rolling. Both John and Savannah are psychologically torturing Tim, who is aware of their connection, but is so devoted to Savannah that he would undoubtedly do anything he could to make her happy.
- Wow Paige has feelings about this romance! Jennifer was not expecting this sort of reaction when she assigned a squishy, sappy, loveeee story for Paige to read, but what a fun surprise it turned out to be.
Paige gave Dear John an astonishing 4 stars and would even go so far as to recommend it to people to read. This was not at all the outcome that Jennifer was expecting, but in Paige’s words, Dear John deserved the rating because it accomplished its goal of making her feel things. Despite BBE’s issues with the relationship dynamics, isn’t that all we can really ask for from books? More importantly, is romance a potential new genre for Paige to explore? Comment below if you have any suggestions for her!