***MATURE CONTENT AND SPOILERS***
Title: The Last Song
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: Romance, family, death
My Rating: **
Official Rating: Teen Fiction
Age Group: 18+
The Horse: the author's name and fame
Ronnie is pretty upset that her parents divorced, and rightly so. So she takes it out on her mom and breaks all the rules possible. She hangs out with the wrong people, in the wrong places, and almost completely ignores any sort of parental direction she is given. Her mom just doesn't know what to do about it.
But when Ronnie and her little brother end up stuck spending the summer with their dad on the beach, things turn around. How could they not, after Ronnie meets a cute boy who also turns to be rich, interested in her, and rather charming?
Things are going well until Ronnie learns the truth about her father. Then it all falls apart.
Word of Warning
- Disrespect, rudeness toward other human beings, and a sort of mean sense of humor that is not portrayed as negative.
- Complete disrespect for parents and those in authority in general. Rudeness, ignoring rules, etc. As for the parents, Ronnie's mom is angry and tries to combat the disobedience. This plan fails and Ronnie only gets worse. Her father, on the other hand, ignores her disobedience and refusal to follow rules, instead confessing concern for her well-being but demanding nothing of her. Her father's plan succeeds and Ronnie turns into a better person.
- Ronnie is mixed up with the wrong people. While she doesn't do anything, they do. They smoke, do drugs, drink, and take their relationships too far. Nothing graphic, but all implied and there.
- Ronnie steals from a store but only because she was bored. Later, she's framed, but hasn't done it. She knows what she did was wrong and even confessed it while on trial.
- A group of entertainers use fire for their shows and are reckless jerks. At one point, a girl's arm is set on fire (by accident) and her group takes off because legally they can't perform where they are performing. She does get help.
- Marcus is dating Blaze but decides he's tired of her and flirts with Ronnie. Ronnie ignores him, but he does imply he'd like to take things too far and doesn't seem to see anything wrong with that.
- Fist fights, one in which a man's nose is broken.
- Women are continually objectified either because of the clothes they wear or by the men they hang out with. Marcus even goes so far as to think about how small and strong looking Ronnie's body seems, but that's about as far as it goes while he is narrating.
- Volleyball tournaments involve bikinis and shirtless guys.
- Ronnie stays with her father until he dies of cancer. This can be a bit disturbing to read about.
- Will covers for his friend who committed a terrible crime by accident. Will spends the whole book battling with whether or not to tell, and even Ronnie suggests he tell at some point. Then, it turns out Will's friend did not commit the crime, and everyone is glad that Will didn't reveal his secret. Not exactly satisfactory from a moral standpoint.
- Ronnie and Will kiss quite often, especially considering how long they've been dating. Usually the kiss is mentioned briefly, but there are one or two where it goes on for a while and starts to get a bit too involved (Will's hands move from Ronnie's shoulders, down her back, to her waist; Ronnie's hands in Will's hair; Will kissing Ronnie's mouth, then her neck, and back to her mouth; etc). Jonah (Ronnie's little brother) sees one of these intense kisses from the house and refers to it as making out. Ronnie objects, saying they were just kissing (exactly what Will told her moments before). What? She proved to the reader during the kiss that she is well aware something was up because she did push Will away and tell him to stop because it felt like it was going farther--and she didn't want her dad to catch her.
- Scott, Will's friend, is happy to date girls with the sole purpose of taking them to bed for a night or two before moving on (in the text, this is referred to as scoring with them). He encourages Will to do the same, but luckily Will doesn't go that far.
- Will and Ronnie stay on the beach all night to protect a turtle nest. Not necessarily a bad thing, but they're alone and it is night and they do sleep at some point (although not together).
- Will's mom is controlling of his life. In her defense, she has a good and tragic reason to be so, and to Will's credit, he knows this and is willing to put up with her control. Eventually he breaks free without hurting her.
- Many other smaller problems.
Granted, this really isn't that much of a Trojan Horse, but it was bad enough that I wasn't about to give it a regular book review. After all, I'm not about to start reading stuff like this regularly and purposely.
So why did I read this? It was actually an accident. See, I'd listened to A Walk to Remember by the same author a while back and though it had some mature content, it was a good story and had a great narration voice (that of the author, interestingly enough). I just loved the style. When I saw The Last Song at a church book sale, I grabbed it (really, .25 is not much of a price to pay), I made the mistake of forgetting the title of the book I'd listened to on tape and thought it was the one before me on the table. When I started reading, I knew it wasn't, but the story didn't seem too bad and Will was too funny to shut the book just yet. Plus, there was the promise of redemption for many of the characters and I liked that idea.
It might've been better if I'd just put it down.
The conclusion was disappointing, Ronnie's parents were disappointing, everything was disappointing, even Will. Because when Will started kissing Ronnie too much, telling her it was just kissing, it didn't make any sense to me. He'd just spent a good chapter thinking about how he values people, not physical interaction, and he liked Ronnie as a person. I get it. He slipped like any human can, but he was never redeemed.
And the thing about media is this: the author has the chance to redeem every character.
What makes the author then is simple: which characters does he redeem, and how?