In the prologue to his latest novel, Nicholas Sparks makes the rather presumptuous pledge 'first you will smile, and then you will cry,' but sure enough, he delivers the goods. With his calculated ability to throw your heart around like a yo-yo (try out his earlier Message in the Bottle or The Notebook if you really want to stick it to yourself), Sparks pulls us back to the perfect innocence of a first love.In 1958 Landon Carter is a shallow but well-meaning teenager who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends and trying hard to ignore the impending responsibilities of adulthood. Then Landon gets roped into acting the lead in the Christmas play opposite the most renowned goody two-shoes intown: Jamie Sullivan. Against his best intentions and the taunts of his buddies, Landon finds himself falling for Jamie and learning some central lessons in life.Like John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, Sparks maintains a delicate and rarely seen balance of humor and sentiment. While the plot may not be the most original, this boy-makes-good tearjerker will certainly reel in the fans. Look for a movie starring beautiful people or, better yet, snuggle under the covers with your tissues nearby and let your inner sap run wild. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien
This is seriously one of the best books I have ever read. Not only did it seem so real, it also taught me a lesson in life.