I went into the book with high hopes and low expectations. I wasn't entirely sure what it was about: I knew it had a bull rider and some sort of crazy romantic love story (because Nicholas Sparks). Other than that, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into, but honestly, that was basically what I got out of it.
This book has two storylines that cross over (though not until very late in the book). The first focuses on Ira Levinson, a ninety-something man who gets trapped in his car after going through a guardrail during a snowstorm. His chapters span a day or two in which he drifts in and out of consciousness, dreaming/hallucinating about his deceased wife, Ruth, and their life together. Their love story begins in the 1940s and progresses until her death decades later, and tells of shy walks home from church, war, early marriage, problems with children, and a lot of art collecting.
The second storyline follows Sophia Danko, a college senior coming off of a recent breakup, who meets Luke Collins, a bull rider who, for reasons not stated until much later in the book, hasn't ridden in a long time, and may be considering quitting altogether. The two meet at a competition near Sophia's school in North Carolina, and have, as expected, a beautiful love story, though it is punctuated with difficulties and some big secrets.
Overall, I didn't love this book because it was predictable. It read like a typical YA romance novel, as I expected, but their story never caused me to feel any strong emotions, which I usually hope to get out of these books. It wasn't a bad book, but I would have liked a little more from their romance, to make it easier for me to fall in love with the idea of love. (Goodness, it's hard to articulate what I expected from this book! But you get it, right?)
After reading the book, I promptly got the movie from the library, and, possibly because I'd just read the book, I didn't feel that the movie held up. Of course, movie adaptations are always missing some of the best parts of the book (in my opinion), but this one seemed to cut out all of the parts that made the story sweet and endearing. Obviously, it would have been difficult to jam everything that made the book what it was into a two-hour film, but because of the way things were cut, I didn't feel any of the emotional appeal that was present in Sophia and Luke's story in the book. Instead, their journey felt shallow, and only the physical aspects of their relationship were emphasized. If I had enjoyed the book more, I may have had a deeper appreciation for the movie, but as I didn't love the book, so the movie just felt a little disappointing.
The Longest Ride was a good story, especially if you love the rodeo and bull riding, but if you're looking for something deep that requires a lot of thought and consideration to appreciate, this isn't it. It is the first Nicholas Sparks novel I've ever finished, but I didn't love it by the end. I did appreciate the stories that wove together nicely, and the romance in general, but in some ways, it just wasn't my style. However, after attending a college rodeo this spring, I did have a much greater appreciation for Luke Collins. Thank you, Taylor, for making me read and watch this (and for making me go to the rodeo)!!