[Review] True Believer - Nicholas Sparks

Title of Book: True Believer
Series: Jeremy Marsh & Lexie Darnell #1
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Year: 2007
Language: English
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 465

Jeremy Marsh is the ultimate New Yorker: handsome, almost always dressed in black, and part of the media elite. An expert on debunking the supernatural with a regular column in "Scientific American," he's just made his first appearance on national TV. When he receives a letter from the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, about ghostly lights that appear in a legend-shrouded cemetery, he can't resist driving down to investigate. Here, in this tightly knit community, Lexie Darnell runs the town's library, just as her mother did before the accident that left Lexie an orphan. Disappointed by past relationships, including one that lured her away from home, she is sure of one thing: her future is in Boone Creek, close to her grandmother and all the other people she loves. Jeremy expects to spend a quick week in "the sticks" before speeding back to the city. But from the moment he sets eyes on Lexie, he is intrigued and attracted to this beautiful woman who speaks with a soft drawl and confounding honesty. And Lexie, while hesitating to trust this outsider, finds herself thinking of Jeremy more than she cares to admit. Now, if they are to be together, Jeremy Marsh must make a difficult choice: return to the life he knows, or do something he's never done before--take a giant leap of faith. A story about taking chances and following your heart, True Believer will make you, too, believe in the miracle of love.

After reading True Believer, I decided to give it three out of five. It’s quite common for me to give a three to books I read. But this book is written by Nicholas Sparks. He’s one of my favorite authors. He can hardly do wrong in my eyes. The only three that I gave to his book is for The Lucky One (and A Walk to Remember apparently, which I don’t remember why. I definitely need to reread that book). I didn't give The Lucky One a high rating because that book didn't meet my expectation. That’s also the case with True Believer (but they didn't meet my expectation in a different way though). So in this post I’ll talk about that.
First of all, Sparks’ writing has some kind of pattern in it which you might also be familiar with if you've read several of his books. That could be a downer to some people but I’m totally okay with it because I like his pattern. The pattern is Sparks’ signature style. The pattern is what makes Sparks’ books different from typical chick lit book. That way I’d know what to expect and if I’m in the mood to read love story, I can immediately pick up his book. Anyway, this book doesn’t follow some of his pattern which I’ll explain below.

1. Male protagonist
Meet Jeremy Marsh, a skeptic scientific journalist who lives in The Big Apple. See, a journalist in The Big Apple. Usually, the male protagonists in Sparks’ books are men with manly man job who live in a small town. I’m not saying that journalist is not a manly job but take John from Dear John. John works in the army. Miles from A Bend in The Road is a sheriff. Taylor from The Rescue is a firefighter. Logan Thibault from The Lucky One is a marine. So you see what I’m talking about, right?
Other thing that bugs me more is Sparks’ male protagonists are usually men that are described as good looking but their actions throughout the book suggest that they’re not aware of it. However, Jeremy gives me a ‘playboy’ vibe. It makes me see him as an arrogant man. Like he knows that he’s charming and attractive so he’s using that to pick up women at bars. Maybe he develops that sort of lifestyle because he lives in a big city. That also could be his flaw that would be cured with the right woman’s love and affection. Still, when I picked this book I expected to meet Sparks’ usual male protagonist. His male protagonists are practically my ideal fictitious men. Jeremy, in my opinion doesn’t meet all of the criteria (sorry, Mr. Marsh).
2. Plot
The plot in Sparks’ books is rather simple. After the random coincidental meeting between the male and female protagonist, there will be a period where they get to know each other. In this period, there will be sweet moments and flirtatious exchange between the two of them. These things happen before they believe that they’re meant to be together. True Believer still follows this rule. Heck, I enjoyed reading Jeremy-Lexie conversation. Yet in True Believer, all this happens in the span of two days. Two freaking days. I know that in order to highlight the emotional experience, Sparks’ love story tend to exaggerate a bit. But two days? Doesn't love take time?  
Then we have the obstacle that tries to keep the couple apart and there’s the significant loss. This significant loss sometimes is the star element of Sparks’ books. This loss is what makes us sympathize towards Noah (The Notebook) or cry for Landon (A Walk to Remember) or feel sorry for John (Dear John) and Ronnie (The Last Song). It’s an important element because this is where love makes a dramatic positive impact on the characters’ lives. In my opinion, in this book there’s nothing that could be considered as a significant loss. As a result, the story just seems flat to me. Maybe the absence of the loss is because this book is the first book in the duology, but I’m not so sure about that; which brings us to the next point.
3. Ending
As a reader, I understand that writing an ending of a romance book is tricky. The story is expected to end in the right moment so it won’t be too cheesy but still giving enough closure to the story. Anyhow, True Believer cuts the story in a weird moment. I feel that the book should end earlier if the author intended to make a cliffhanger ending which will intrigue the readers to read the second book; or he could add more chapters to end the story without even having a sequel. I believe one or two more chapters are sufficient to resolute the story. 

Aside from the elements that I pointed out above, this book works okay to me. True Believer is set in the beautiful (fictitious, apparently) town somewhere in the South. Boone Creek, where the story mostly takes place, is a small town with beautiful landscape where everyone knows each other.
I love the female protagonist. She’s smart and confident. She doesn't feel intimidated by Jeremy the City Boy and I like her for that. She’s naturally beautiful. Also, Sparks always treats his male and female protagonist fairly. If the story is told from the male perspective, the female protagonist will still have enough back stories and vice versa. Besides, it takes two to tango. 
Despite of the points that I've mentioned earlier, I’d still read the second book though. I do think that True Believer is only a part of the bigger story. So obviously I’ll read At First Sight which is the sequel.

“You know, you really shouldn’t stare like that. Women like a man who knows how to be subtle.”

* This post is inspired by Buzzfeed’s article: Why Nicholas Sparks Matters Now and my love of Sparks’ writing.

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