Dear Mr. Nicholas Sparks,
I am a fan. I read your books and I enjoy your movies. They make me feel a range of emotions from hope, to joy, to sorrow. Your work has been an escape from reality for me ever since I experienced The Notebook as a teenager. I never expected to feel personally attacked and belittled by the work of a creative mind that I have so enjoyed.
During my junior year of college, my mom shared one of your books, The Longest Ride, with me. She figured that I would enjoy some lighter reading before the studying for finals picked up and that I would be able to connect with the main female character, Sophia, since we were of similar ages. I enjoyed every second of the book, until I reached the scene where the two young love interests, Sophia and Luke, have dinner with Luke’s mother.
Mr. Sparks, you describe how engaging Sophia is, how she charms Luke’s mom by telling amusing stories, one of which makes fun of the bulimia that appears to run rampant through her fellow sorority members. The “charming” story describes how the young women of the sorority vomit so frequently, that the pipes of the house must be replaced due to corrosion. When I read that I was stunned. To me, it seemed as if you were showcasing how different Sophia is from her college-girl counterparts. How she is special, intelligent, mature, and ready for the serious relationship that she and Luke are building. My questions to you are, how does her pointing her finger at young women with eating disorders make her seem like a good person? How does having Luke and his mother chuckle along to this story make them good people? What makes forcing a finger or a toothbrush down ones throat and emptying ones stomach contents funny? To me, it appears that you are painting these other women as shallow and materialistic, as evidenced through their bulimia, while Sophia is the shining opposite: the woman of moral righteousness.
As a young woman who has suffered with distorted body image since elementary school and disordered eating with bulimic tendencies since the age of 12, I felt attacked. I felt humiliated. I felt like I was being criticized for the issues that I have lived with for as long as I can remember. It seemed like you were branding me personally as not being good enough to picture myself as a heroine in one of your novels. As if you were condemning me as shallow, materialistic, and stupid. I paused as if I were a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car: shocked and confused. And then I kept reading. Personally, I like to cause myself emotional pain. It is like an addiction for me. However, upon finishing The Longest Ride, I have not opened another of your books. You see, as a reader, I am not worthy. I participate in the act that you find humorous. That the heroes in your stories find amusing. I am the joke told over dinner.
This letter has no purpose, except hopefully to act as a self-exorcism for these feelings that I have fixated on for over two years now. I hope that you take it into your heart that your readers come from all aspects of life and will bring with them a variety of experiences. Everyone has something that is a lasting mark on their soul, on their psyche. Some are born with these marks and some are acquired, and these people are not “less”. No one should be made to feel as if they do not deserve love, especially due to a condition that they will live with forever.