Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Why I chose this book:

The only reason I picked up this book was because my mom bought it on her Kindle, and I thought the movie actually looked good enough to read the book first. This was my first dive into Nicholas Sparks, and it was exactly what I expected. No surprises here.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: September 14, 2010
Format: Kindle ebook 
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Realist Fiction 

Love hurts. There is nothing as painful as heartbreak. But in order to learn to love again, you must learn to trust again. 

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

To preface, I realize that this book is not specifically considered YA lit, but I decided to review it anyways since many teenagers read Nicholas Sparks’ novels. I will say that this is the first of his novels I have read, so yeah understand that when I review this book.

3 things you need to know about this book:

   1. Factual writing styles are lame
   Okay, so I’m not sure if all of Sparks’ work is like this, but I felt like his writing was very factual. This happened, then this happened, then this happened. There was not much meat to it, and there weren’t as many emotional responses to situations like I was expecting and would have welcomed.
   His way of expressing emotion is describing what a character is thinking in coherent, logical terms; however, not all emotions can be so easily defined or described in such a way. In my experience, emotions are not always coherent or logical or can be explained in such a cookie cutter fashion like Nicholas Sparks likes to use.

   2. Your generic Nicholas Sparks plot
   This is the epitome of a Nicholas Sparks book. There are three things you’re certain of: someone will die, two people will fall in love, and the climax will be slightly over the top. Since most of you who read Sparks knows this, I won’t harp on how generic this plot was, so instead, I will talk about how surprised I was at its slow beginning. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to reading fast-paced YA lit and this is just something different, but I felt it dragged significantly when there was really no need for it to drag. I felt it stayed like this for the bulk of the novel until the spike of the climax at the very end. There was not a whole ton of rising action, or at least the rising action that would make me super nervous. But the climax acted as a spike in action, and then went right back to a flat line again. 

   3. Flat characters are flat
   There were a lot of issues with the plot, but I think the characters, because they were so integral to the story, made more plot holes than a normal story.
   A) Alex was the main male protagonist. He was your generic good guy and extremely flat. I wish he had been more dynamic, but he was just as flat as the friend that you’re not all interested in. Yes, he had the flaw of father being pulled in a thousand directions, while trying to run a store, while also grieving over the loss of his wife, but I felt like Sparks tried to explain that through the grieving process of his wife, Clary. However, he could have gone so much more in depth. Though sometimes males do not show a lot of outward emotion, their mind and thought process is different, and to explain that would have made his character more believable.

   B) Katie/Erin was the main female protagonist of the story. First I will say that her background was fantastic! I really liked how he went back to how she got away from Kevin and then her journey to Southport. Her story was really inspirational, but again, his editor should have advised him to add more emotion to her character. I was expecting more of an emotional brokenness from Katie. Yes, she wanted to stay away from a social life and didn’t want people to feel in danger if she had to split, but I feel like there should have been more of a physical response to her emotional abuse, such as flinching and skittishness -that would have fit more with her situation. 
   I also love and appreciate that Sparks made Katie the savior of her own story. So many romance novels paint the men as the saviors, which to me, only enhances the patriarchy and makes a female feel completely useless in her own story. 

   C) Kristin and Josh were Alex’s kids. I really wish that their characters were more fleshed out. Children are extremely fun to write because you can give them funny, spunky, and outrageous personalities; they are very versatile and act similar to a completely black canvas. But Sparks decided to forego this and color the as flat as the rest of his characters. For instance, he barely went into their emotional responses to seeing their father and Katie fall in love. I wanted to know what these kids were thinking and how they were dealing with this situation, seeing as this is one of the most delicate situations.

   D) Kevin. Ah, the villain of the story. As much as I was disgusted with his character (what he did and how he thought), I thought he was a pretty good and relatively round character. I definitely didn’t like him. He had a few holes, but nothing as major as the others. Sparks made Kevin a delirious character, because he truly was crazy. He was an alcoholic with manipulative, controlling, and abusive tendencies, not to mention he really went off the deep end the later half of the novel. I still wish that he would have described his emotional process in a way that was not so logical and clinical, because not all of his emotions and thought processes were like that. The way his mind worked was outrageous and twisted and dark and distorted. You can’t understand characters like this through logical means. In the end, he was probably the most round character of them all.

   Final Notes: 
   Overall, it was an ‘eh’ book. I won’t read it again, nor would I really recommend it to many people unless this is their type of book. Because of so many plot holes and character issues, I don’t think it could ever deserve a five star rating.

I gave this book 2 stars on my Goodreads.

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