My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have to admit I really liked “The Last Song”, and part of that might be the fact that I have a weakness for coming of age novels that establish both a sense of place as well as a true coming to terms for a character going through jarring changes in their lives. It also helps that “The Last Song” is a summer story, and that appealed to me before I even picked it up.
For anyone that’s curious, I have seen the movie with Miley Cyrus, but I have to be honest and say for anyone who’s seen that and wanted to know if the book is anything like it – not really and I urge people to give the book a go, because they did change quite a bit of it. The movie didn’t really impress me that much, changing some aspects while keeping others faithful – there were certain scenes they did replicate from the book directly. (The movie also managed to get Snow Patrol’s “Shut Your Eyes” stuck in my head when it was playing during the aquarium scene. I have a particular fondness for that song for a few reasons, though my music taste is all over the place.)
The story toggles between different perspectives – Ronnie, Will, Ronnie’s father, just to name the main characters among a few others, but the primary focus comes to Ronnie, the 17-soon-to-be-18 year old girl who goes to live with her father for the summer, alongside her little brother. The story is pretty much one that shows her coming to terms with a lot of life events during the summer. Fair warning, Ronnie is not the most likable character to start in this novel. She’s your typical rebel, complete with black clothing and dyed hair, and doesn’t like the fact she’s going to stay with her father in Wilmington, NC versus New York. She hasn’t spoken to her father since the divorce from her mother, and she purposefully distances herself for a time. Ronnie has been named as a troublesome kid, and when she’s caught in a few scuffles while in Wilmington, people aren’t surprised and aren’t quick to believe her word. But her growing relationship with Will proves a different story, and ultimately Ronnie’s character transforms on account of the experiences and revelations she has with respect to her family, friends, and even with falling in love.
I actually liked how Sparks showcases the changes in the characters, particularly Ronnie, because I wasn’t sure if I would grow to see her perspective as the book went on. Ultimately she comes to question the things that she used to say and do in the heart of her rebellion, and grows closer to her family, particularly with some jarring events that she later learns factor into her spending the summer there. I’m not going to say that it isn’t somewhat predictable, nor am I going to say that I didn’t feel like some of the drama was a little more drawn out than it should’ve been (I think towards the end of the novel, that was especially true). However, I really enjoyed the journey far more than I thought I would, and I could see the changes and rationale of the characters as I went through the novel.
I think this is a novel that those who like coming of age, summer stories will enjoy, and those who don’t mind focus on family drama and interaction. It’s a solid novel of character growth and coming to terms, and I think it was worth the read in seeing the transformation Ronnie takes and how she ultimately grows up in light of the events and relationships she builds.
Overall score: 3.5/5