The Choice

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
The Choice Book Poster Image
Cloying, formulaic romance milks the tears.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Discussion of end-of-life directives and pros and cons of keeping a coma patient alive.

Positive Messages

Follow your heart. Live the life you want to live, not the life others expect of you. Sometimes you have to be strong for other people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stephanie is honest and loyal. Even though Travis makes a few questionable choices, he is devoted to everyone in his life and is well liked in his small town. Gabby has confidence issues, but she's smart, independent, and successful. Travis' circle of friends is supportive and comes to his aid when he's in a crisis.

Violence

One character deals with sexual harassment at work, including her boss trying to kiss her against her will. One character punches another in the face.

Sex

A few scenes with mild kissing. Gabby describes Travis' body in a desirous way. Both main characters explain how their bodies feel when they're close to each other. Some making out and passionate kissing. Sex referenced but not described.

Language

The characters do not swear at all. Strongest language is the word "butt" in talking about a dog's behind.

Consumerism

Most brands and media are referenced for scene-setting: Gold's Gym, Tylenol, Bayer aspirin, Aleve, G.I. Joe, Jet Ski, Tupperware, Coors Light, Budweiser, Frisbee, Lucky Charms, Barbie, Mountain Dew, Dockers, Busch Gardens, Wonder Bread, Star Wars, Josie and the Pussycats, Gilligan's Island, Let's Make a Deal, Casablanca, Die Hard, Home Alone, Dora the Explorer, Judge Judy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink beer or wine socially in several scenes, including at a BBQ, on the beach, at dinner. Travis declines beer on the beach because he has to drive the boat home.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Choice is a romance novel about two neighbors who fall in love. If you're familiar with other Nicholas Sparks books, you'll know much of what you need to know about this one: It's a tearjerker set in a small Southern town; the characters are beautiful, nice people; and they encounter a few serious obstacles in the course of their relationship. The book (which inspired a movie) centers on two crucial choices the two lovers, Travis and Gabby, must make that will shape their relationship and their lives. The book would appeal to many teen readers who like escapist romance stories. There's little in the way of intensity in terms of violence, drugs, or sex, and characters drink socially in a few scenes but not to excess. The strongest language is the word "butt." The only violence is one character punching another in the face. Descriptions of sexual activity are limited to kissing and making out; sex is not shown nor described.

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What's the story?

Gabby Holland moves to Beaufort, North Carolina, choosing a job there to be closer to her boyfriend of several years, Kevin. Her next-door neighbor is Travis Parker, who grew up in Beaufort and has lots of friends and family nearby. Unlike Gabby, Travis is not big on serious relationships. He's had plenty of girlfriends over the years but doesn't see the need to get married. Gabby is stressed from her move, her new job, not having friends nearby, and not being totally sure where her relationship with Kevin is going. To top it all off, she believes Travis' dog got her dog pregnant, so she unleashes all her frustration out on him during their first meeting. Travis takes it well, and despite their rocky beginnings, a friendship and romance ensue. The title of THE CHOICE refers to a few crucial choices Gabby and Travis must make: she at the outset of the relationship, and he much later on.

Is it any good?

Cloying and formulaic, The Choice is another Nicholas Sparks story of love with a twist of sadness. The book is not unpleasant, if you like escapist romance with barely flawed people living idyllic lives in idyllic places. It's a light and fast read for those looking for a quick diversion. And though romance novels thrive on an element of fantasy, The Choice pushes the limits of believability too far at times, especially at the end. About two-thirds of the book is dedicated to Gabby and Travis' burgeoning romance, with lots of dialogue. That in itself isn't a problem, but these characters aren't interesting at all.

The main issues they face are Gabby's decision over whether to date Travis and Travis' decision about Gabby later in the relationship. His decision certainly will be seen by many readers as illegal and immoral, but in this story it's depicted as OK because it's in the name of true love. Sparks drops a few clues and some deliberate misdirection about what Travis is facing, but it comes across as forced rather than suspenseful.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about love and how much or what you'd do for someone you love. Give up your own life? Break the law? Are you sure?

  • Have you read other Nicholas Sparks books or seen movies adapted from his books? How does this story compare?

  • Have you ever changed your goals or plans based on family expectations? Do you regret it? Or were there times when your family was right?

Book details

For kids who love romance

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