Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember is a successful novel because of its appeal to all readers who have ever experienced what many might refer to as the "turbulent years" of high school. The novel is squarely placed in small-town North Carolina; never once do outside forces threaten to intrude on that setting within the novel. And yet, as with all outstanding literature, the "small" transforms itself into the large," the specific means more than a simple singularity, the individual represents the universal. Such is A Walk to Remember.
Although many people may classify A Walk to Remember as a love story, it is, in fact, a classic coming-of-age novel, a genre in which the protagonist undergoes tremendous growth after experiencing either a great adventure or some inner turmoil. In the case of Landon Carter, there is no great adventure — after all, this is not a character who sets out to slay a dragon in order to rescue the princess. But there is great inner turmoil in Landon's life because Jamie Sullivan acts as a mirror in which Landon sees his own behaviors, values, and patterns for the first time and is deeply dismayed by the images he sees. How Landon handles this self-image, how he is transformed by these recognitions — those are the great workings of meaningful literature, of a coming-of-age novel with which readers can identify. In Landon, readers see themselves, and initially they might not like what they see. But Landon's perseverance in growing to maturity is the readers' perseverance in growing to maturity. Landon succeeds, and readers applaud him for it.
Sparks shows us that the best decisions — the ones that matter the most in our lives — are best made by listening to your heart. Landon has been listening to his mind for years. He has known Jamie Sullivan all his life, and his "logic" tells him that she's nothing special — in fact, that she's rather strange. But Jamie does not live up to the expectation that the "facts" would have Landon believe. Such is nearly always true when listening to the heart. The heart dreams, loves, takes chances, defies the odds. Landon opts for the heart, choosing to believe in a miracle. He falls in love when he's not looking for it, and that love changes him forever. And in that love which seems so selfless, readers find solitude and wish it were they.