Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: September 24th, 2007
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Romance
Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life — boating, swimming, and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies — he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Despite his attempts to be neighborly, the appealing redhead seems to have a chip on her shoulder about him…and the presence of her longtime boyfriend doesn’t help. Despite himself, Travis can’t stop trying to ingratiate himself with his new neighbor, and his persistent efforts lead them both to the doorstep of a journey that neither could have foreseen. Spanning the eventful years of young love, marriage and family, The Choice ultimately confronts us with the most heartwrenching question of all: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?
I read The Choice as a buddy read with Cassandra over at ccbooks66512 for Read A Spark. As the first one-star review I’ve written so far this year, you can be sure it will develop into a long-winded rant, so consider yourself warned!
While I enjoyed the small number and simplicity of the characters, they were excessively predictable, just as in all of Nicholas Sparks’ novels. While readers are gradually introduced to their personalities and characteristics, there wasn’t any real development of them throughout the book – each character remained static and came across as a puppet who was merely controlled by the pulling of a few strings rather than an actual individual.
Travis operates the only veterinary clinic in the small town with his father but is able to effectively balance his time between work and relaxation. He routinely socializes with a group of high school friends on the weekends, but he is the only member of the group who is unmarried and childless. In an attempt to compensate for his lack of a wife, Travis dates countless girls for only a few months at a time (all of which he shares with Gabby during one of their first encounters). Most disturbingly was the absence of any character flaws – Travis was able to cook, clean, ride a motorcycle, operate a boat, entertain children for an extended period of time, perform veterinary tasks…In essence, he served as the nonrealistic Mr. Perfect who possessed an unbelievable amount of charm. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he wasn’t married right out of high school.
Gabby, on the other hand, was an absent-minded, guilt-ridden P.A. with a tendency to jump to assumptions and take her anger out on others. She had reservations about quite a few components of life which she rarely overcame. Similarly, she came across as needy and overly attached to the male figures (and prospective husbands) in her life. Her temper tantrums grew old fairy quickly, and I had little patience for her shenanigans as the book progressed.
I’m a huge stickler for accuracy, particularly when it comes to literature. Therefore, I was a bit irked by the evident lack of research on Sparks’ behalf prior to writing this novel. There were numerous inaccuracies and misconceptions regarding both the veterinary and medical fields. Having a background in both areas, the inconsistencies stuck out like sore thumbs and were fairly challenging to overlook. Particularly the physical impossibility of the ending (if you’ve read the book and/or seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m referring to).
There was a very strange dynamic in the romantic relationship between Travis and Gabby. Firstly, the pair are neighbors – neighborly interactions are typically limited to waving to one another from the front porch, not snogging every time you take out the trash. Secondly, Gabby has a long-term boyfriend at the beginning of the novel and repeatedly dreams of marrying him, yet she continues to see Travis behind her boyfriend’s back – someone isn’t exactly as innocent as they come across. If she was already in a committed relationship and was overly willing to cheat on her significant other with Travis, what will prevent her from cheating on a future husband? And thirdly, Travis apparently had a slew of prior girlfriends, and each relationship ended poorly with few amicable partings. All of these factors were tremendously reassuring at the onset of the novel (please note the sarcasm in this statement). In all honesty, the romance seemed to be more of an instalove/infatuation-to-the-point-of-making-me-extremely-uncomfortable rather than an I’m-slowly-falling-head-over-heels-for-my-extremely-handsome-neighbor scenario. Most disappointingly was the apparent lack of “true love,” which seems to serve as the basis for actual, lasting romances. The relationship was tremendously rushed – Travis and Gabby were professing their undying love for one another within 24 hours of first meeting each other. Common sense tells me that you may want to spend a bit more time getting to know someone before pledging to spend the rest of your life with them…then again, perhaps my opinion does not reflect the societal norm.
The plot, mirroring the pace of Travis and Gabby’s relationship, moved exceptionally slowly, and many of the scenes seemed inconsequential with respect to the actual storyline. I quickly became bored – I wasn’t invested in the plot, I couldn’t connect to any of the characters, and I found myself making excuses to avoid reading The Choice at all costs (I even resorted to vacuuming and folding laundry – eek!). Unfortunately, The Choice seems to have set off an immensely frustrating reading slump that has yet to subside – it’s developing into a bit of a problem, especially considering that I have to read one book a week over the summer for my upcoming AP English course. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can put an end to my reading slump?
Without a doubt, The Choice was my least favorite Sparks’ novel that I have read to date – I was extremely close to setting this book aside and marking it as DNF on numerous occasions. I very well would have put it down had it not been for Cassandra’s repeated pep talks that motivated me to hang in until the very end. While reading, I clung to some small sliver of hope that the remaining 200, 100, or even 50 pages would improve significantly, but my overly optimistic thinking simply led to further disappointment. The conclusion was likely the biggest let-down due to its uncharacteristically happy ending. I was holding out for an unquestionably heartbreaking tearjerker to revive my interest in the novel but instead received a sappy “happily ever after” ending. Nicholas Sparks’ novels are typically defined by their depressing finales, so I was certainly not amused when the one dependable aspect of the book turned out not to be all that dependable after all.