Chapter 1 takes place six months prior to the Prologue. Ronnie and her brother are being driven to North Carolina to spend the summer with their father. Ronnie, who is accustomed to living in New York, dreads having to spend her summer in North Carolina and is doing her best to make the drive miserable for both her mother and her 10-year-old brother. Ronnie mentions the incident and reveals that she is annoyed about her lack of independence.
Ronnie has been ignoring her father since he left her family three years ago, refusing to talk to him on the phone or to be available when he visits New York. She has recently had trouble in school and regularly violates her curfew. She was also involved in an incident. Although Ronnie refuses to discuss the incident with her mother, Jonah reveals, in true 10 year old fashion, that Ronnie was arrested. She also mentions her father's piano playing, Juilliard, and her own piano playing, which she abandoned after her father moved out.
Early in the chapter, Ronnie is described as feeling "like a prisoner." This feeling of being trapped, of helplessness, is a motif that is developed throughout The Last Song. Many characters experience these feelings, and they choose different ways and means to address them.
In what may potentially be seen as an editing mistake, Ronnie is annoyed that her mother "conceived three months earlier than she should have." However, if Ronnie's mother had actually conceived three months later, Ronnie would be even younger. This may actually be an important bit of characterization. As a 17 year old, Ronnie thinks she has things all figured out: no one can talk to her, explain things to her, or rationalize with her. She is convinced that she is right, even though she is in fact incorrect. This attitude is not unusual for an adolescent.
The chapter also provides a realistic portrayal of personal relationships — specifically Ronnie's relationship with her mother, her brother, and her father. Ronnie's voice is that of a disgruntled teenager, one who is trying to find her place in the world, one who is without a sense of purpose and direction, yet is unwilling to accept guidance from anyone else, particularly from her parents.
The image and tone at the end of the chapter set up an important contrast for Ronnie's development. Her sagging figure in the front seat suggests that she wants nothing to do with her mother, her brother, or her father. She sees no value in family. Everything is "depressing" to her. This image is of Ronnie at her starting point, and The Last Song chronicles her growth.
Mozart a prolific and influential Austrian composer, considered by many to be the best of all classical composers
sonata a composition for one or two instruments, typically in three or four movements in contrasted forms and keys
Carnegie Hall a famous concert hall in New York that was named for and endowed by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie