Rating: 7/10

The Best of Me is a novel by best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, a commercial writer whose titles have sold over 85 million copies in total. I usually keep my distance from stories written for the masses, where the author seems more intent on reaching the number one spot in best-seller lists than providing readers with original material. This particular author fits the bill, having found a signature formula that not only gained him fame and fortune but has even been adapted multiple times for the big screen.

The most famous adaptation of all his stories is undoubtedly The Notebook (2004), that tear-jerking romance that saw Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams finding a sure footing in the film industry. When The Best of Me too was adapted for film, it got me curious enough to want to know more about it and I found myself, quite to my surprise, enjoying the read. This was most especially because Sparks is very good at providing a visual picture that is vivid and clear, much more so than quite a few of my favourite writers, actually. In fact, I could safely class Sparks as a master storyteller.

Teenage sweethearts Dawson and Amanda couldn’t be any more different. Dawson Cole is part of a family that everyone is scared of, and unfortunately, even Dawson himself is! Meanwhile Amanda is a Collier, one of the richest and most established families living in the area, with parents as proud and prejudiced as they come. However much they love each other, theirs is a doomed relationship from the start. How very Romeo and Juliet. Whilst life cruelly forces them apart, there is a little piece of them that will never stop belonging to each other. So when a couple of decades later they are brought back to their home town by the death of their one common friend and mentor, it’s obvious that some sparks will fly.

This is a story with heart (there’s a pun in there that you’ll figure out once you’ve read the book) that had me in tears by page 19. Sparks manages to keep the reader on the edge throughout what is essentially a ‘romance’, but with a lot of ‘life’ thrown in. The “Will they, won’t they?” question is only answered nearing the end, in an apt climatic form. It all suddenly comes together, including explanations for the minor characters’ parts in the story, all of which culminate into one main plot rather than what I first thought would be a couple of sub plots on the side.

Although I could never have predicted how things would turn out for Dawson, which is what kept me intrigued till the end of their romantic ping pong story, the writer did lose my attention nearing the end of the actual novel, simply because it all very suddenly turned cliché.

As I’ve mentioned already, commercial romance is not my thing but I would still say this makes for good reading when you’re not looking for something deep and meaningful and just fancy a light read. Maybe you could save it for that wintry rainy night, when being snug in bed with a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other is what you need for a bedtime routine.

The book for this review was kindly provided by Agenda Bookshop.