Amira's Reviews > Dear John

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
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's review
Dec 05, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: coming-of-age, humanity, love-story, relationships, romance, tragedy, war-stories
Read in August, 2011

** spoiler alert ** John Tyree, a soldier with no adamant purpose in life, meets a girl with a sure sense of direction, Savannah, during leave. After spending two weeks with her he is sure of what he wants for his future and who he wants to spend it with. However the impossibly long distance and time they spend a part makes it continuously hard for them to keep their relationship together (everyone knows long distance doesn't work right?). Eventually life altering decisions made by both of them, make it seemingly impossible for them to ever have a future together.

The main reason I picked up this book was because of the 2010 film adaptation starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. I really loved the movie and wanted to see how the book compared. The film is a faithful adaptation of the main story, with all of the key scenes included, but the film far surpasses the novel. The chemistry between John and Savannah was more present and any alteration made in the movie enhanced the story, especially the change of the ending as a massive improvement. The film had more life to it than the book.

This seems to be true of most of the film adaptations of Sparks' books. The film versions have more colour and interest to them and I enjoy them much more.

That said, I did like the John in the book. He was the most rounded and relatable of the all of the characters. I really felt a strong connection to him, felt his emotions and understood him even when he couldn't express it. And who could resist a handsome, tough, surfy soldier on summer leave?

However Savannah irritated me. She was too much of a goodie-goodie. Even though I admired that she stayed true to herself and her beliefs, I felt that her moralising over-stepped comfortable boundaries. Her conversation was dramatic, sanctimonious and her behaviour far too abrupt. This is not good, especially because the reader needs to somewhat like, if at least appreciate, Savannah's character and motivations so that her actions later on don't completely alienate you (which I obviously was).
Sparks uses Savannah as a vehicle to profess his strong opinions on relationships. And even though I actually agreed with some of these opinions, the way they were expressed seemed forced, unsubtle, jarring and especially alienating if you don't agree with them. On that note, I'd recommend this book to more conservative readers especially if you hold Christian values.

Savannah and Tim came across as false. They proclaimed to be sweet, innocent and trying to care for people, when in fact they actually treated John extremely insensitively and down right cruel.
I mean the guy is halfway across the world fighting a war and you're going to break up with him through a letter when he has no way to immediately respond to you?!!? And then you don't send any follow up communication just to see how he's coping? Then when he finally does show up, seeking some small solace, you burden him with all your problems, shove your marriage and betrayal in his face and then endlessly dredge up past romantic memories and be surprised when it appears painful for him?
At times, when she was taking a merry trip down memory lane with total disregard for him, I felt like grabbing her and screaming "Can't you see how much you're hurting him?!!?
I'm sorry Savannah but all the community service work, excellent education and upright attitude (which I think Sparks uses as a qualifier) can't redeem you to me, for what you did to him.
Obviously Amanda Seyfried did a brilliant job bringing the character some emotional depth and understanding, in the film.

My hostility for Savannah aside, it is probably the best Nicholas Sparks book I have read to date and a good summer read. It holds true to all of the hallmarks of Sparks' writing (ie don't expect a happy ending), but I established a connection to the main character, John Tyree, which I hadn't been able to achieve with his other novels and this pulled me through the story.

Highlights included: the development of John's father and the links to autism and Asperger's, the love story during the first half of the book and the references to the wars and soldiers. All of which had created elements of actuality and believable truth. The film dialogue is much better and didn't have large paragraphs where characters spilled their guts and divulged their innermost feelings at the drop of a hat, which didn't ring true for conversational norms (again She Who Will Not Be Named had this particularly annoying quality, but John did it occasionally as well).

All in all, its a quick, simply written and engaging read . . . but if you want to really FEEL the story watch the film (FYI have a tissue handy).

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