I've never actually read a book by Nicholas Sparks, nor do I have desire to.
After all, his novels regularly find their way to the screen. So I feel as though I'm absorbing them by osmosis.
I don't think I'm giving much away -- no spoiler alert required -- to say that Dear John is the first of the cinematic adaptations of his books I've encountered in which one of the two lovers at the center of the story doesn't die. Not that true love runs smoothly -- Sparks wouldn't have an oeuvre if it did.
Sparks is a big believer in people having a moment and capitalizing upon it, even if it doesn't last. The people in his stories always seem to be at a critical point in their lives -- a decisive point -- when they're questioning everything they've ever believed in. They're vulnerable, open to a connection they never had before, receptive when that one person suddenly walks into their life and changes everything.
Not that everything ever stays changed for long. Inevitably there's a conflict -- there wouldn't be drama without conflict -- often involving a misunderstanding of some sort. And then regret and, with luck, reconciliation -- but not for long. Never for long, because otherwise how would Sparks make his audiences tear up at the cruel irony when true love refuses to resolve itself as happily ever after?
In Dear John, the couple that has a moment consists of John and Savannah (which is confusing because the story is set in Charleston). John (Channing Tatum) is a soldier at home on leave; Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) is a college girl at the beach on spring break.
They meet cute on a pier where Savannah, with a group of friends, accidentally drops her purse in the water. While her male companion dithers and runs down the pier to get to the shore to get to the water, the valiant John simply jumps in, dives to the bottom and rescues the purse, winning the girl's heart.
They spend a rapturous two weeks together, though not without bumps.