Dear John by Nicholas Sparks This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 24, 2010
John Tyree is a soldier first, a man second. Or so he thinks until he meets Savannah Lynn Curtis. While on leave, he falls desperately in love with Savannah, the proverbial girl of his dreams. Sweet, intelligent, and giving, John knows he'll always carry her torch.

When September 11 changes the world, John is no exception. Moved by patriotic loyalty, he chooses to "re-up" in the army, adding time to his service and breaking his promise to return to Savannah. More promises are broken when he must attending to his ailing father.

This is the story of how an ideal love can falter, despite its purity and strength. Not every romance results in a happy ending, but with a great deal of luck, those who don't survive will find meaning from the experience. Love, loyalty, friendship--all those sentiments are great, but to what cost? And how does this make a good man great? This is John's journey to that understanding.

It goes without saying that Nicholas Sparks is one of today's "master" storytellers. Part of what makes him so successful is that he has the ability to create moving stories without pulling punches or painful twists. Such is the case in DEAR JOHN. Sparks offers a love story that has all the requisite components--well-crafted setting, high emotion, obstacles, and resolution--then breaks it. It is from the sadness that hope emerges, and John Tyree, although still quite young, gains wisdom that will last a lifetime. Sorrow will be a large part of this, yes, but there is room for something more, something that will reach beyond the pages and touch John's tomorrow in a way only he will see.

While this works, there is something lacking. It is one of those hard-to-define qualities that marks the difference between a good book and one that is outstanding. Maybe it's the heavy reliance on John's soldiering as an excuse for certain behaviors. Or perhaps it has more to do with aspects relating to John's relationship with his father, who appears to have Asperger's syndrome.

I'm giving DEAR JOHN 4-Books for a beautiful story, but not five because of that indefinable element that was lost between idea and paper.

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