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The Lucky One

The Lucky One - Nicholas Sparks I'll admit I only read this book because I saw the trailer for the movie, which involves a very shirtless and good-looking Zac Efron. I should have stuck to my self-imposed ban on Nicholas Sparks books, though. After reading The Notebook (hated the book and movie), A Walk to Remember (amazing movie—hated the book), Dear John (even Channing Tatum couldn't save that one), and The Last Song (I actually immensely enjoyed the book, and the movie wasn't dreadful), I had sworn off Sparks novels. Because—let's face it—Sparks has a formula to his novels, similar to Sarah Dessen (not that I don’t love Dessen). Every book is set around the same place, has basically the same shallow characters, and a vaguely similar plot to every other book the author has written. But it was a rainy day, my mom had this book laying around for some reason, and I needed something to spend the day reading. Since I already had the book and I try to read the book before I see the movie, I figured I'd read it. Plus, Zac Efron.

I wouldn't say The Lucky One is bad, exactly, but more extremely predictable and extensively boring. Before getting ten pages into the novel I could have told you that Thibault and Beth would fall in love, Beth would find out about the picture and they'd break up for a short time only to get together again, in love forever and always. And, of course, somehow at least one person would die. The moment the kid was like, "Yeah when I'm mad I go up in my rickety old tree house that is practically in shambles" (obviously, not a direct quote) I jumped to the conclusion that the kid would get mad, go in his treehouse, and it would fall down and a lot of drama would ensue in the attempt to save him. Hey, guess what happened? ALL OF THAT.

While reading The Lucky One, I kept getting distracted by the clichéd mess of characters. The one who stuck out the most to me as feeling like the same exact character from another novel was Keith Clayton. Especially in the chapters written from his point-of-view, I was reminded of the few chapters that we had from Marcus' POV in The Last Song (although the only reason that might have stuck out the most is that The Last Song is the only Sparks novel I can say I enjoyed, and it's the one I know and remember best). Keith and Marcus' thoughts and speech sounded exactly the same to me—although every character speaks in essentially the same way. I didn't connect with any of the characters. None felt real. It's like Sparks writes all his characters in extremes, and he has molds for them all. Bad Guy, Attractive Female Protagonist, Attractive Male Protagonist, Cute Kid, Lovely Older Person—with spots where he fills in the variables.

The one thing I really liked about The Notebook was that there was a choice. Lon wasn’t a bad guy—Allie actually had a decision to make between Lon and Noah. But in The Lucky One, Keith is a perverted asshole who abuses his privileges as a cop and almost becomes a rapist at the end. He also treats his son poorly by throwing a baseball at his eye and, as I interpreted it from the book, never bothers cleaning his kitchen because he has a son who can do it for him every other weekend. On the other hand, Thibault is an ex-Marine. He is attractive, great with kids, a hard worker, and likes walking a lot. He also has a badass dog who would have made a more interesting main character than any of the people we were introduced to in The Lucky One. In the end, we don't get to make the decision for ourselves on who Beth would be better with—more or less, Sparks has it spelled out for us. Should Beth be with the rapist who makes her son clean his kitchen all the time or the mysterious sexy man who literally walked across the country with his ingenious German Shepherd? Oh wait! There's no choice.

Nana and Ben weren't memorable supporting characters. Every so often Nana had an interesting metaphor to offer but Ben didn't seem to do much besides go to his dad's house and play with Thibault's dog. Again, they both felt a lot like characters I’d read about before.

And then there's the plot. I quite liked the bits about the picture and Victor, but everything just seems to get resolved too quickly after Beth finds out Thibault has been carrying around a photograph of her and has gone so far as to track her down using what little information he could glean from observing the background of the picture. Two pages after she gets upset, she's over it and they're back together. I don't know; I just felt sort of disappointed there. I wanted a big argument or something, not Beth showing up at Thibault's house to exchange a few sentences before they make love while the creepy ex-husband watches through the window. The ending tree house-storm event felt extremely unnecessary. It's as if Sparks was like, "Alright, now that I'm at the end of this book, someone needs to die... I’ve already made Ben's father into the worst person ever, but now I have to make him a likable person. So I'll have him die while trying to save his son from the fallen tree house in the stream during a psychotic flood." No. You don’t get to give someone a heroic death in the hopes that suddenly we’ll like him, completely forgetting that he was a total asshole.

I guess what I really didn't like about The Lucky One is how boring it is. Everything is flat and predictable. Sparks is one of the writers who takes a more "tell, not show" approach in his writing, which is fine. I can see why some people might like this book, but I definitely did not, and until another movie based on a Sparks book comes out starring a sexy male (i.e. Ryan Gosling, Shane West, Liam Hemsworth, Channing Tatum, Zac Efron) I will be steering clear of all Nicholas Sparks novels.