Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks Review - The first Nicholas Sparks book I didn't like??

Title: Every Breath
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Series: N/A
Publication: October 16th, Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 320 Pages, Paperback
Source: Library
Rating: 3/5 cupcakes!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a story about a chance encounter that becomes a touchstone for two vastly different individuals -- transcending decades, continents, and the bittersweet workings of fate.
Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she's been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family's cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.
Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother's early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.
Illuminating life's heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, EVERY BREATH explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties -- and asks the question, How long can a dream survive?

I love Nicholas Sparks’s books. Last summer consisted of them and I loved every one I read. When I heard he had a new book out and that it featured an African character, I was beyond excited. Nicholas Sparks and Africa - what’s not to love?

That being said, my predicted 5-star read went awry. Excuse my pun, but it was lacking the same spark that his other books have.

Nicholas Sparks, in my opinion, isn’t an exceptional writer. He is a brilliant storyteller though, and I don’t think of those words as synonyms of the other. His writing is very simple and devoid of elaborate prose and philosophical epiphanies. His writing is there to tell a story, simply and honestly. Most of the times that works in his favour and it's one of the things I love about his books. Simple writing allows the reader to get lost in the actual story without having to wade through adjectives and metaphors to find it. However, in this case, the story itself was distinctly lacking and thus sharply illuminated the less than stellar prose.

Generally, his stories that are filled with raw, unadulterated love and hurt and loss are what make him such a beloved author, and without that there, the entire structure crumbled. Without a story I could love and become invested in, I was noticing aspects of the writing that I may have overlooked had the story been heart-wrenching. 

Let me start off by talking about the love story itself. It’s between Hope and Tru. A 36-year-old woman from North Carolina who has been in a relationship for six years that has become stagnant, and Tru, a 42-year-Old safari guide from Zimbabwe. They meet by chance when Tru visits the USA for a few days to meet his estranged biological father and Hope is clearing out her childhood cottage that her parents have put on the market. They meet and fall hopelessly in love with promises of loving the other eternally...and this is where my first problem with the romance lies: it happens over three days.

It’s insta-love. And it was not done well. Tru and Hope fall in love with one another and in a couple of days they’re telling each other they love the other. When I came across the premature “I love you”, I literally thought I had maybe missed a chunk of the book because it was way too soon. They barely knew each other and had spent probably three days in each other’s company. It was too soon. Way too soon.

I’ve read books that have taken place over a couple of days but the love story feels genuine, allowing me to look past the short time-span; however, this was not the case with Every Breath. One thing that was markedly noticeable to me was the lack of chemistry between Hope and Tru. There was no spark. No passion, no vibrancy - their interactions were dull and lifeless and I was bored. They had zero chemistry and a lot of the time I felt like they didn’t even particularly care for one another. How that can happen in a Nicholas Sparks book is beyond me?!

This leads me to characters themselves. They had no personality, Hope especially. In fact, I found myself not even really liking Hope considering the way she hurt Tru. There are spoilers ahead so be warned. 

Tru can’t have kids after a measles infection left him sterile and Hope really wants kids. So Hope goes back to the guy she was with for six years and says yes to the marriage proposal (that came during her time with Tru) because she wants kids. So she broke Tru’s heart and basically subjected herself to a marriage she wasn’t invested in just so she could have kids.

It just felt kind of cruel. Obviously as a 20-year-old who hasn’t ever had a boyfriend, I’m not exactly equipped to speak on these topics, but it just felt kind of sad that she would ditch a guy she apparently really loved to be with a guy who was unfaithful to her so she could have kids? I don’t know, it just made me dislike her quite a bit.

Tru, on the other hand, I liked. He was so polite, gentle, understanding, and sweet. His character also felt slightly more developed than Hope’s which was a plus.

Another thing I didn’t particularly like was the dialogue and the plot. The dialogue was mind-numbingly boring and it felt like an interview between the characters rather than a natural way to get to know the characters. Nicholas Sparks took the opportunity to reveal as much about the characters’ backgrounds through dialogue. And it didn’t work. The dialogue felt so formulaic and contrived that it was glaringly obvious he was using communication between characters to reveal the characters. Obviously, a large part of getting to know a character is reading their interactions with others, but it was just SO obvious. And so unnatural too! Their conversations felt like I was reading a fact file on each of them. It was very disappointing. 

The sequence of events also felt too manufactured somehow. The plot didn’t feel natural; I could see the plot points and how everything had lined up to be a certain way. Every novel is planned but as a reader, I don’t want to see that.

Every Breath also felt as if it was lacking in substance. It felt somewhat rushed and incomplete. I feel like it could’ve been so much better if more time was invested into it. He also came at a new angle and wrote himself into the novel, so Every Breath was obviously an experiment and thus affected the outcome.

Although I had a string of negative things to say, I do have two positives.
I loved that Africa was mentioned. Several sections of this book felt like a love letter to Africa and I adored that. It made me miss South Africa even more and watered the yearning I have to explore the continent more in-depth.

I also liked the setting. Nicholas Sparks writes settings and atmospheres very well. I am always transported to the place where the book is set. He captures places acutely and I always feel as if I am there when reading his books.

Every Breath is a book I thought I would love. Although I adored the descriptions of Africa and the intensely tangible settings, it wasn’t enough to salvage this novel. The plot felt glaringly obvious, the dialogue resembled a series of interviews, and the love story itself was insipid and rushed. I was expecting to be filled a myriad of emotions and have my heart tugged at and torn...instead I felt grave disappointment at the formulaic dialogue, the contrived sequences of events, and the lack of chemistry between the characters. It made this book a disappointing read for me.

I give it: 2.5/5 cupcakes