Dear John, Beautiful Darkness, and The Duff

     I read some very different books this past week. It started with Nicholas Sparks' Dear John. It was a great book. But the funny thing about Nicholas Sparks is that I actually prefer the movies over the books. I'm not trying to knock Nicholas Sparks here, I think mainly it's because I've always seen the movie first, and then if I've liked it, I read the book later. So I get used to what I see on screen. I think the movies aren't quite so heart-wrenchingly sad too. Take Dear John. I knew the book wasn't going to end the same as the movie did. There's no way. I liked the bit of hope the movie ending gave. Jeff didn't like it though. He started watching the movie with me about a half hour in, but when the end rolled around, he was ticked. In fact I think his exact words were, "what kind of ending is that?" And so I said, "well what did you expect? It's Nicholas Sparks!" I went on to explain that you can expect three things from Nicholas Sparks: 1- romance, 2- a very serious medical condition, and 3- death (main character death usually). So Jeff asks me the million dollar question: "why would anyone wanna read him then?"
     Good question. I mean, why do I like that kind of stuff when I know I'm going to cry a whole lot and that someone's gonna die? I thought about it after he asked me and I came to this conclusion. First, Nicholas Sparks writes human stories well. Very well. He's excellent at suffering, sadness, sickness, death, and triumphing over all those things. He's also good at love and genuine feelings.
     I figured something else out too. In general I love a happy ending. But sometimes I love the heart-wrenchingly sad ones. Why? Well, to quote Becoming Jane, in real life good people don't always have happy endings. Bad people don't always come to bad ends. I think it's that realness, that truth, that draws me in. I don't want fluff all the time because it's not real. While I do like the fluff, and it provides a nice escape from the awfulness of this world, sometimes it's nice to read about more serious and true issues.
     After reading that I moved on to Beautiful Darkness, the sequel to Beautiful Creatures which I raved about a week or so ago. The sequel did not disappoint. I love these books. Garcia and Stohl do a great job of taking me into their southern/paranormal world. Excellent. If you like witch stories- read it!
     Yesterday I read The Duff by Kody Keplinger. I have a lot to say about this book so I'll try to keep it short. Duff stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend". The book is about this guy who calls the main character the duff. Aside from dealing with how that makes her feel, she has to deal with an ex, a divorce, and an alcoholic parent. So she turns to the jerk of a guy who calls her that, finding distraction from her troubles with him. What I liked: I think every girl has felt like the duff at one point in their lives- like out of their group of friends they are the ugly one or the fat one. I know I have. Not always, but there have been times. So it was very relate-able in that way. The voice was awesome- cynical, sarcastic, funny, honest. And at the end I liked how there's a subtle message about not judging others, not using labels like duff (or prude or slut or tease, etc.) What I didn't like: too many swear words. Some YA books have them, some don't. I prefer when they don't. It just takes me right out of the book when I'm trying to skip over the f-word. I also have to comment on the fact that though it's a YA book, I wouldn't want my girls to read it when they're teens. I don't want them to think that a guy (or sex) will be a good distraction from their problems like it is for the main character. Yikes. The thought just scares me so bad that I don't even want to think about it.
     So there you have it. Three very different books, all good for different reasons.