THE BEST OF ME is the story of two high school sweethearts whose love was cut short because they were born on opposite sides of the track. As all people sometimes mistakenly are, they were identified and labeled because of who their families were. Amanda Collier was born to a family that was considered to be well bred and upper crust, and were highly respected people in the community. She was expected to go to a good-standing college and marry a man who was compatible to her station in life. However, against her parents’ wishes, she began seeing a young man whose family had been in and out of prison and whose main interests seemed to be a life of crime.
"It has been a few years since I have read a Nicholas Sparks novel that has touched me as much as this one has. If I can pick my favorites from him, THE BEST OF ME will rank with MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and THE NOTEBOOK --- it was THAT good."
The townspeople feared the Coles. They were dangerous individuals who would not hesitate to hurt or kill someone who got in their way. They were from the wrong side of the tracks, and no one who was decent would have anything to do with them except Amanda. She saw that Dawson was different, and was one of two people who did not judge him based on where he came from or who his father was.
Their love was never meant to be, and because Dawson’s love was true, he let Amanda go. He wanted her to attend college and have the life she was destined to have, the life she deserved to have. Amanda never forgot Dawson, but eventually moved on. She went to college, met and married a respectable man, and raised a family. She lived the life she had been expected to live.
Dawson’s life, on the other hand, did not go the way people expected. Instead of living the life of crime his father and cousins wished him to have, Dawson left town after an altercation with family and a tragic accident that put him in jail. Once he was out, he was determined never to set foot in that town again.
Things happen for a reason, and we meet people for a reason. Some may call it Fate. When their mutual friend passes away, a man who in some ways became a mentor to both of them, his last request brings both Amanda and Dawson back to that small town in North Carolina, changing their lives in ways neither would have imagined.
It has been a few years since I have read a Nicholas Sparks novel that has touched me as much as this one has. If I can pick my favorites from him, THE BEST OF ME will rank with MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and THE NOTEBOOK --- it was THAT good. I am not one to throw out compliments and praise lightly, either. I will admit, though, that I am a sucker for a good old-fashioned tragedy, one that requires a box of tissues and a good cry. The story of Amanda and Dawson is that of star-crossed lovers, two people who will always love one another but are destined to be apart. Choices they make as individuals create a chain of events that inexplicably affect other lives. And one can say it is the story of our own lives, in that sometimes we wish we could turn back the clock and change one decision we had made in the past, so that we can create a new life that we wished we had instead. Choices are made that create a fork in the road, a new destiny for both Amanda and Dawson that changes everything.
I liked the way Sparks laid out the different parts of the book, starting with the backstory and slowly working his way to the present. The pace of the novel starts out slow, but as the story progresses, things start to move at a much faster rate. I read the last half of the book in one sitting, staying up late one night because I could not put it down. One always has a feeling of foreboding in a good Nicholas Sparks book, and I was poised and ready to find out what happens to Amanda and Dawson and whether or not they get their happy ending.
Will readers get their happy ending? I can promise that there is both a classic Nicholas Sparks tragedy but with a twist of hope. It is bittersweet yet satisfying. If it had ended any other way, this would not have been a Nicholas Sparks novel. He is always at his best when he sticks to his formula of the star-crossed lovers.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on August 9, 2011
The Best of Me