Nicholas Sparks is Pretty Much the Worst: My Most Unpopular Opinion as a Woman

I’ve made it no secret that I really just can’t get into reading books. I prefer to stick to my liberal-leaning music and entertainment magazines (to which I really do need to renew my subscription…) and humor books. The last two books I’ve read were Bossypants by Tina Fey (my new favorite) and William Shatner’s autobiography, Up Till Nowwhich I can’t help but read in Shatner’s voice. I also enjoy the classics, and my bookshelves are inhabited by Vonnegut, Orwell, Huxley, Vidal, Albee, and Shakespeare, to name a few. I enjoyed the Harry Potter series immensely, but beyond all of those, I can’t get into those books that young women are “supposed to” like.

As a middle schooler, I wasn’t into those coming-of-age books that were so sacred. Sure, there were the ones we had to read for class, like Island of the Blue DolphinsHatchet, and others — those were ok. Then came high school, and we started reading edgier books. Where a lot of girls went the romance route, I went down the path of the dystopian novel, and I’ve never quite looked back. (I’ve been very “fight the power” from a young age.) However, when I shared with a girl in my class that I had never read or watched A Walk to Remember, I was called un-American. Pardon me? I can see where my choice of literature could have been considered subversive at the age of 15, but by no means does my failure to take in chick lit make me an enemy of the country.

I’ve never, ever understood the appeal of Nicholas Sparks, or any other book or movie basically designed to illicit tears from the consumer. I refuse to willingly expose myself to “entertainment” that makes others cry, whether it’s inspiring or sad. That’s why I hate videos and links that others post on Facebook with comments like “literally just cried reading that” or “what a touching story!” — I avoid those at all costs. Maybe I’m just not a very emotional person, but I think I’m fairly well-adjusted person when it comes to my feelings. I know that many readers will not agree with me when I say that I think Nicholas Sparks books kinda suck. But that’s just my prerogative, and you’re also quite welcome to yours. A source I turn to daily to read well-researched, informative, and hilarious articles probably summed up my feelings about these books best:

Read some of the articles on this site… I would love nothing more than to write for them.

I’d like to think that this man survives off of the tears of groups of lady friends going to the theater to see these movies together, or women of any age reading the books with a bottomless glass of wine. I have seen a couple of the movies, and just didn’t think much of them. However, I have learned a few things from these movies:

  1. You have to hold on to someone’s face if you’re going to kiss them and mean it. (Brian will probably think I’m attacking his head.)
  2. When you cry, still try to look as beautiful as possible. (I know for a fact that I’m an ugly, ugly crier, and no one should have to see that.) 
  3. Someone always dies. (Cliché.) <– I originally had something else as my third point, but I decided it actually was too harsh of a criticism of this genre, and stands to be the only thought I’ve ever omitted on this blog.

Who wants to cry? Am I missing out on some kind of female bonding experience? It’s just not for me. Sorry if I’m offending anyone, but I won’t be upset if you don’t get my particular forms of literature. I’m not the only one who has considered how cheesy these books and movies are: check out Anna Breslaw’s Reality Index Reviews of The Vow and The Lucky One from Glamour. (Anna is probably my new girl-writer crush.) This article on Cracked also outlines another reason why I think these books are straight up crazy: remember when Noah threatened to let go of the Ferris wheel if Allie didn’t agree to go on a date with him, while she was sitting there with her current date? That’s a form of domestic abuse, my friends; in no way is threatening to kill yourself a romantic gesture.

Can I take a minute to suggest a couple of alternatives to these movies?


I’m ok with shedding a tear or two to this movie. If you don’t know, it served as an inspiration for Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle.


Perhaps the most realistic romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, and the only one I’ve been able to get my boyfriend to watch.

A lot of people have probably seen the second one, but the first film is an absolute classic. I don’t judge women who read Sparks novels, but I don’t particularly get it, and subjecting myself to sadness on purpose is just not my thing.

 

“You don’t choose a life. You live one.”

I’m on Spring Break this week and, boy, has Spring made itself known today. The weather here in Northeast Ohio is beautiful, with the temperature forecast to hover near 70 degrees for the next week. This afternoon, after doing some writing this morning and spending a little time out in the sunshine, I decided to watch my latest movie from Netflix. I’m trying to be better about actually watching the movies soon after they arrive and then sending them back. I tend to let movies languish, and my list of movies isn’t growing any shorter.

I’d been looking forward to this movie though, so it wasn’t too hard to watch it.

The film in question is The Way, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Emilio’s father, Martin Sheen. I  love both Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, the former from his days playing President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing and the latter from the other movie he wrote and directed, Bobby.

The Way tells the story of Thomas Avery, a California ophthalmologist, who travels to France to retrieve his son Daniel’s remains after Daniel is killed during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is an 800+ kilometer pilgrimage route from the French-Spanish border, through the Pyrenees Mountains and the northern Spanish countryside, to the city of Santiago and its Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the remains of the apostle St. James are (reportedly) housed.

Thousands of pilgrims have traveled this route for more than a thousand years, to find God, to find themselves, to find enlightenment, to see nature, to experience life. Thomas Avery doesn’t agree with his son Daniel’s choices, scolding that not everyone has the “luxury of just leaving it all behind,” but he loves his son greatly, despite their differences. After arriving in France and claiming Daniel’s body, Thomas, having no intention of staying, decides to walk the Camino and spread Daniel’s ashes as he goes.

His journey is deeply personal, but also communal as he shares experiences and his grief with other pilgrims walking the Camino. Thomas completes the Camino, both for himself and for his son Daniel, arriving at the Cathedral in Santiago to experience the daily Pilgrim’s Mass (a true sight to see). The Way has changed him, like it changes all of his companions.

I really liked the movie, but it may not be for everyone. It’s slow moving at times, very introspective with brief moments of comedy. But, it’s not about the movie’s pace, it’s about the overall meaning.

We’re all searching for something. Faith, answers, guidance, beauty, fresh air, history. We all go on journeys too. Maybe not walking the Camino or even going on a long trip, but we all take voyages – through nature, books, art, music, etc. Our purpose when embarking on that journey is hardly ever the same as we learn it was when the journey is over — we always learn something different or more than we expect.

But that’s okay.

That’s the point of the trip.

Where have you journeyed? Where do you want to journey to?

What do you think you’ll find along the way?