The Last Song

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Overview

Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art ...

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The Last Song

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Overview

Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.

The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels—first love, love between parents and children — that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Her parents' divorce left 17-year-old Veronica Miller embittered and confused. Three years later, "Ronnie" still seethes with anger toward her father, a musician and teacher who has abandoned hectic New York City for the quiet beach town of Wilmington, North Carolina. Nevertheless, she reluctantly agrees to her mother's altruistic plan that for the good of all concerned, she should visit her estranged father in his new home. As the story of The Last Song unfolds, novelist Nicholas Sparks weaves his magic, threading together the intricate story of three very different people tied inextricably together.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446547550
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/4/2010
  • Pages: 413
  • Sales rank: 55,234
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Sparks

With over 85 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include twelve #1 New York Times bestsellers, and all his books, including Three Weeks with My Brother, the memoir he wrote with his brother, Micah, have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than fifty languages. Eight of Nicholas Sparks's novels-Safe Haven, The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and Message in a Bottle-were also adapted into major motion pictures. In 2011, he founded the Nicholas Sparks Foundation to inspire and transform students' lives though education, curriculum development, and life-changing international experiences. To learn more, go to www.NicholasSparksFoundation.org. The author lives in North Carolina with his wife and family. You can visit him at www.NicholasSparks.com.

Biography

Ever since The Notebook made Nicholas Sparks a word-of-mouth publishing sensation in 1996, he has maintained his status as a bestselling author of tragedy-tinged love stories. His spare, simply themed novels star ordinary people overcome by extraordinary emotions, and changed by them.

It's possible that Sparks might have enjoyed his level of popularity by writing these stories strictly from imagination, but in fact his family's struggles play an important role in many of his books, especially the earliest novels. (For exampleThe Notebook, his tale of a great love affair extending into old age, was inspired by his wife's grandparents; Message in a Bottle drew from Sparks' father's life story and A Walk to Remember from his late sister's.) In addition, a three-week trip he and his older sibling Micah undertook in 2003 became the basis for Three Weeks with My Brother, a unique memoir as moving and tenderhearted as any of his fiction.

Sparks is very methodical about his writing, an approach he makes transparent on his web site with several essays, updates on works in progress, and notes on the mechanics of his novels. Unsurprisingly, critics have faulted him for being too formulaic or cliched. Still, Sparks never fails to move his stories along quickly, maximizing emotional impact and featuring strong, down-to-earth characters. His endings also tend to depart from convention a bit, revealing tragedy where the walk into the sunset should be.

Although he is often classified as a Romance writer, Sparks is quick to point out that his books don't really satisfy the requirements of Romance publishers. Instead, he admits to writing love stories, a different genre altogether. Whatever he cares to call them, one thing's for sure: Nicholas Sparks continues to strike gold with his bittersweet novels of love and loss.

Good To Know

Sparks came to his career in an unconventional way: Sidelined after a running injury at University of Notre Dame, where he had won a full track scholarship and still holds the 4x800 relay record, he decided to write a book after his mother offhandedly suggested it as a way to make him stop brooding. His first novel remains unpublished ("It's a wonderful story -- except for the writing," he wrote later), but he kept trying. He later coauthored an inspirational title called Wokini; but his third novel (The Notebook) was the charm.

Blockbuster film adaptations of Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook have turned Sparks into a successful Hollywood franchise.

Sparks' wife is probably one of the most envied wives around. She met Nicholas in college at spring break, where he informed her that they would be married. She laughed him off, but they were married just over a year later. He told Barnes & Noble.com in a 1999 interview, "I suppose I'm a romantic. Ladies Home Journal has even called me the Most Romantic Husband in America. In fact, I sent my wife a dozen roses today."

Sparks was still selling pharmaceuticals and had only just delivered the final version of The Notebook to his agent when she called, two days after receiving the manuscript, telling him she expected "something big." That something big materialized within the week: a $1 million offer from Warner Books.

Sparks holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

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    1. Hometown:
      New Bern, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 31, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Omaha, Nebraska
    1. Education:
      B.A. in finance, University of Notre Dame, 1988
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Last Song


By Sparks, Nicholas

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2009 Sparks, Nicholas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446547567

Prologue

Ronnie

Staring out the bedroom window, Ronnie wondered whether Pastor Harris was already at the church. She assumed that he was, and as she watched the waves breaking over the beach, she questioned whether he was still able to notice the play of light as it streamed through the stained-glass window above him. Perhaps not—the window had been installed more than a month ago, after all, and he was probably too preoccupied to notice anymore. Still, she hoped that someone new in town had stumbled into the church this morning and experienced the same sense of wonder she’d had when she’d first seen the light flood the church on that cold day in November. And she hoped the visitor had taken some time to consider where the window had come from and to admire its beauty.

She’d been awake for an hour, but she wasn’t ready to face the day. The holidays felt different this year. Yesterday, she’d taken her younger brother, Jonah, for a walk down the beach. Here and there were Christmas trees on the decks of the houses they passed. At this time of year, they had the beach pretty much to themselves, but Jonah showed no interest in either the waves or the seagulls that had fascinated him only a few months earlier. Instead, he’d wanted to go to the workshop, and she’d taken him there, although he’d stayed only a few minutes before leaving without saying a single word.

On the bedstand beside her lay a stack of framed photographs from the alcove of the small beach house, along with other items she’d collected that morning. In the silence, she studied them until she was interrupted by a knock on the door. Her mom poked her head in.

“Do you want breakfast? I found some cereal in the cupboard.”

“I’m not hungry, Mom.”

“You need to eat, sweetie.”

Ronnie continued to stare at the pile of photos, seeing nothing at all. “I was wrong, Mom. And I don’t know what to do now.”

“You mean about your dad?”

“About everything.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

When Ronnie didn’t answer, her mom crossed the room and sat beside her.

“Sometimes it helps if you talk. You’ve been so quiet these last couple of days.”

For an instant, Ronnie felt a crush of memories overwhelm her: the fire and subsequent rebuilding of the church, the stained-glass window, the song she’d finally finished. She thought about Blaze and Scott and Marcus. She thought about Will. She was eighteen years old and remembering the summer she’d been betrayed, the summer she’d been arrested, the summer she’d fallen in love. It hadn’t been so long ago, yet sometimes she felt that she’d been an altogether different person back then.

Ronnie sighed. “What about Jonah?”

“He’s not here. Brian took him to the shoe store. He’s like a puppy. His feet are growing faster than the rest of him.”

Ronnie smiled, but her smile faded as quickly as it had come. In the silence that followed, she felt her mom gather her long hair and twist it into a loose ponytail on her back. Her mom had been doing that ever since Ronnie was a little girl. Strangely, she still found it comforting. Not that she’d ever admit it, of course.

“I’ll tell you what,” her mom went on. She went to the closet and put the suitcase on the bed. “Why don’t you talk while you pack?”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“How about at the beginning? Jonah mentioned something about turtles?”

Ronnie crossed her arms, knowing the story hadn’t started there. “Not really,” she said. “Even though I wasn’t there when it happened, I think the summer really began with the fire.”

“What fire?”

Ronnie reached for the stack of photographs on the bedstand and gently removed a tattered newspaper article sandwiched between two framed photos. She handed the yellowing newsprint to her mother.

“This fire,” she said. “The one at the church.”

Illegal Fireworks Suspected in Church Blaze Pastor Injured

Wrightsville Beach, NC—A fire destroyed historic First Baptist Church on New Year’s Eve, and investigators suspect illegal fireworks.

Firefighters were summoned by an anonymous caller to the beachfront church just after midnight and found flames and smoke pouring from the back of the structure, said Tim Ryan, chief of the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department. The remains of a bottle rocket, an airborne firework, were found at the source of the blaze.

Pastor Charlie Harris was inside the church when the fire started and suffered second-degree burns to his arms and hands. He was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center and is currently in the intensive care unit.

It was the second church fire in as many months in New Hanover County. In November, Good Hope Covenant Church in Wilmington was completely destroyed. “Investigators are still treating it as suspicious, and as a case of potential arson at this point,” Ryan noted.

Witnesses report that less than twenty minutes before the fire, bottle rockets were seen being launched on the beach behind the church, likely in celebration of the New Year. “Bottle rockets are illegal in North Carolina, and are especially dangerous considering the recent drought conditions,” cautioned Ryan. “This fire shows the reason why. A man is in the hospital and the church is a total loss.”

When her mom finished reading, she looked up, meeting Ronnie’s eyes. Ronnie hesitated; then, with a sigh, she began to tell a story that still felt utterly senseless to her, even with the benefit of hindsight.

1

Ronnie

Six months earlier

Ronnie slouched in the front seat of the car, wondering why on earth her mom and dad hated her so much.

It was the only thing that could explain why she was here visiting her dad, in this godforsaken southern armpit of a place, instead of spending time with her friends back home in Manhattan.

No, scratch that. She wasn’t just visiting her dad. Visiting implied a weekend or two, maybe even a week. She supposed she could live with a visit. But to stay until late August? Pretty much the entire summer? That was banishment, and for most of the nine hours it had taken them to drive down, she’d felt like a prisoner being transferred to a rural penitentiary. She couldn’t believe her mom was actually going to make her go through with this.

Ronnie was so enveloped in misery, it took a second for her to recognize Mozart’s Sonata no. 16 in C Major. It was one of the pieces she had performed at Carnegie Hall four years ago, and she knew her mom had put it on while Ronnie was sleeping. Too bad. Ronnie reached over to turn it off.

“Why’d you do that?” her mom said, frowning. “I like hearing you play.”

“I don’t.”

“How about if I turn the volume down?”

“Just stop, Mom. Okay? I’m not in the mood.”

Ronnie stared out the window, knowing full well that her mom’s lips had just formed a tight seam. Her mom did that a lot these days. It was as if her lips were magnetized.

“I think I saw a pelican when we crossed the bridge to Wrightsville Beach,” her mom commented with forced lightness.

“Gee, that’s swell. Maybe you should call the Crocodile Hunter.”

“He died,” Jonah said, his voice floating up from the backseat, the sounds mingling with those from his Game Boy. Her ten-year-old pain-in-the-butt brother was addicted to the thing. “Don’t you remember?” he went on. “It was really sad.”

“Of course I remember.”

“You didn’t sound like you remembered.”

“Well, I did.”

“Then you shouldn’t have said what you just said.”

She didn’t bother to respond a third time. Her brother always needed the last word. It drove her crazy.

“Were you able to get any sleep at all?” her mom asked.

“Until you hit that pothole. Thanks for that, by the way. My head practically went through the glass.”

Her mom’s gaze remained fixed on the road. “I’m glad to see your nap put you in a better mood.”

Ronnie snapped her gum. Her mom hated that, which was the main reason she’d done it pretty much nonstop as they’d driven down I-95. The interstate, in her humble opinion, was just about the most boring stretch of roadway ever conceived. Unless someone was particularly fond of greasy fast food, disgusting rest-stop bathrooms, and zillions of pine trees, it could lull a person to sleep with its hypnotically ugly monotony.

She’d said those exact words to her mother in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, but Mom had ignored the comments every time. Aside from trying to make nice on the trip since it was the last time they’d see each other for a while, Mom wasn’t one for conversation in the car. She wasn’t all that comfortable driving, which wasn’t surprising since they either rode the subways or took cabs when they needed to get somewhere. In the apartment, though… that was a different story. Mom had no qualms about getting into things there, and the building super had come by twice in the last couple of months to ask them to keep it down. Mom probably believed that the louder she yelled about Ronnie’s grades, or Ronnie’s friends, or the fact that Ronnie continually ignored her curfew, or the Incident—especially the Incident—the more likely it would be that Ronnie would care.

Okay, she wasn’t the worst mom. She really wasn’t. And when she was feeling generous, Ronnie might even admit that she was pretty good as far as moms went. It was just that her mom was stuck in some weird time warp in which kids never grew up, and Ronnie wished for the hundredth time that she’d been born in May instead of August. That was when she’d turn eighteen, and her mom wouldn’t be able to force her to do anything. Legally, she’d be old enough to make her own decisions, and let’s just say that coming down here wasn’t on her to-do list.

But right now, Ronnie had no choice in the matter. Because she was still seventeen. Because of a trick of the calendar. Because Mom conceived three months earlier than she should have. What was that about? No matter how fiercely Ronnie had begged or complained or screamed or whined about the summer plans, it hadn’t made the tiniest bit of difference. Ronnie and Jonah were spending the summer with their dad, and that was final. No if, ands, or buts about it, was the way her mom had phrased it. Ronnie had learned to despise that expression.

Just off the bridge, summer traffic had slowed the line of cars to a crawl. Off to the side, between the houses, Ronnie caught glimpses of the ocean. Yippee. Like she was supposed to care.

“Why again are you making us do this?” Ronnie groaned.

“We’ve already been through this,” her mom answered. “You need to spend time with your dad. He misses you.”

“But why all summer? Couldn’t it just be for a couple of weeks?”

“You need more than a couple of weeks together. You haven’t seen him in three years.”

“That’s not my fault. He’s the one who left.”

“Yes, but you haven’t taken his calls. And every time he came to New York to see you and Jonah, you ignored him and hung out with your friends.”

Ronnie snapped her gum again. From the corner of her eye, she saw her mother wince.

“I don’t want to see or talk to him,” Ronnie said.

“Just try to make the best of it, okay? Your father is a good man and he loves you.”

“Is that why he walked out on us?”

Instead of answering, her mom glanced up into the rearview mirror.

“You’ve been looking forward to this, haven’t you, Jonah?”

“Are you kidding? This is going to be great!”

“I’m glad you have a good attitude. Maybe you could teach your sister.”

He snorted. “Yeah, right.”

“I just don’t see why I can’t spend the summer with my friends,” Ronnie whined, cutting back in. She wasn’t done yet. Though she knew the odds were slim to none, she still harbored the fantasy that she could convince her mom to turn the car around.

“Don’t you mean you’d rather spend all night at the clubs? I’m not naive, Ronnie. I know what goes on in those kinds of places.”

“I don’t do anything wrong, Mom.”

“What about your grades? And your curfew? And—”

“Can we talk about something else?” Ronnie cut in. “Like why it’s so imperative that I spend time with my dad?”

Her mother ignored her. Then again, Ronnie knew she had every reason to. She’d already answered the question a million times, even if Ronnie didn’t want to accept it.

Traffic eventually started to move again, and the car moved forward for half a block before coming to another halt. Her mother rolled down the window and tried to peer around the cars in front of her.

“I wonder what’s going on,” she muttered. “It’s really packed down here.”

“It’s the beach,” Jonah volunteered. “It’s always crowded at the beach.”

“It’s three o’clock on a Sunday. It shouldn’t be this crowded.”

Ronnie tucked her legs up, hating her life. Hating everything about this.

“Hey, Mom?” Jonah asked. “Does Dad know Ronnie was arrested?”

“Yeah. He knows,” she answered.

“What’s he going to do?”

This time, Ronnie answered. “He won’t do anything. All he ever cared about was the piano.”

Ronnie hated the piano and swore she’d never play again, a decision even some of her oldest friends thought was strange, since it had been a major part of her life for as long as she’d known them. Her dad, once a teacher at Juilliard, had been her teacher as well, and for a long time, she’d been consumed by the desire not only to play, but to compose original music with her father.

She was good, too. Very good, actually, and because of her father’s connection to Juilliard, the administration and teachers there were well aware of her ability. Word slowly began to spread in the obscure “classical music is all-important” grapevine that constituted her father’s life. A couple of articles in classical music magazines followed, and a moderately long piece in The New York Times that focused on the father-daughter connection came next, all of which eventually led to a coveted appearance in the Young Performers series at Carnegie Hall four years ago. That, she supposed, was the highlight of her career. And it was a highlight; she wasn’t naive about what she’d accomplished. She knew how rare an opportunity like that was, but lately she’d found herself wondering whether the sacrifices had been worth it. No one besides her parents probably even remembered the performance, after all. Or even cared. Ronnie had learned that unless you had a popular video on YouTube or could perform shows in front of thousands, musical ability meant nothing.

Sometimes she wished her father had started her on the electric guitar. Or at the very least, singing lessons. What was she supposed to do with an ability to play the piano? Teach music at the local school? Or play in some hotel lobby while people were checking in? Or chase the hard life her father had? Look where the piano had gotten him. He’d ended up quitting Juilliard so he could hit the road as a concert pianist and found himself playing in rinky-dink venues to audiences that barely filled the first couple of rows. He traveled forty weeks a year, long enough to put a strain on the marriage. Next thing she knew, Mom was yelling all the time and Dad was retreating into his shell like he usually did, until one day he simply didn’t return from an extended southern tour. As far as she knew, he wasn’t working at all these days. He wasn’t even giving private lessons.

How did that work out for you, Dad?

She shook her head. She really didn’t want to be here. God knows she wanted nothing to do with any of this.

“Hey, Mom!” Jonah called out. He leaned forward. “What’s over there? Is that a Ferris wheel?”

Her mom craned her neck, trying to see around the minivan in the lane beside her. “I think it is, honey,” she answered. “There must be a carnival in town.”

“Can we go? After we all have dinner together?”

“You’ll have to ask your dad.”

“Yeah, and maybe afterward, we’ll all sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows,” Ronnie interjected. “Like we’re one big, happy family.”

This time, both of them ignored her.

“Do you think they have other rides?” Jonah asked.

“I’m sure they do. And if your dad doesn’t want to ride them, I’m sure your sister will go with you.”

“Awesome!”

Ronnie sagged in her seat. It figured her mom would suggest something like that. The whole thing was too depressing to believe.

Questions and Explanations for the Prologue and Chapter 1

The questions in this book serve multiple purposes. Not only are they designed to check your comprehension and understanding of The Last Song, but they also encourage you to think critically about the literary text. It’s important not only to know what happens in the novel, but also to be able to analyze the text and make connections outside of it. In addition, the questions check your knowledge of essential literary terms and your knowledge of standard grammar and usage rules, as well as your vocabulary. The formats of the questions mirror those found in important standardized tests, such as the ACT and SAT.

You should do your best to answer each question. If you are having difficulty, a detailed explanation to guide your reasoning process is provided after each question. It is designed to teach you how to answer the question rather than just providing you with the correct answer. Reading the explanation will be beneficial even if you are certain of your response; use it to verify that you have the correct response.

The ten questions on the prologue and chapter 1 focus on grammar and usage, vocabulary, literary terms, characterization, and style. Some of the questions combine two or more of these areas, requiring you to synthesize your knowledge, make inferences, and interpret the text. The questions are designed to determine both your current level of understanding of the novel and your ability to answer higher-level questions.

The following sentence tests your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. The sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If there is no error, select choice D.

1.

Ronnie’s mother many steps to ensure that her daughter enjoys the summer with her father, not engaging her in verbal sparring during their drive New York to North Carolina.

In order to answer this question correctly, you must be able to understand what is being tested. Choice A tests verb tense, choice B questions the placement of a modifier, and choice C questions the appropriate preposition.

Most students recognize past, present, and future tense—for example, “I ate” (past), “I eat” (present), and “I will eat” (future). When you use have or has with a form of the verb, you are indicating that the action has started in the past and continues into the present. For example, “Ronnie has eaten cereal for breakfast since she was four years old.” This indicates that she started eating cereal years ago and continues to do so. For choice A, if Ronnie’s mother’s actions began in the past and continue into the present, then has taken is the correct verb tense.

Choice B analyzes the writer’s clarity. Writers should place modifiers (words or groups of words that describe another word) as close as possible to the word being described. For example, is the modifier clear in the sentence, “I ate a burger in the new restaurant that wasn’t very good”? In this example, the modifier that wasn’t very good describes restaurant because that is the word nearest to it. But if the writer intended to state that the burger wasn’t very good, the sentence needs to be written this way: “At the new restaurant, I ate a burger that wasn’t very good.” If the descriptive words are in the wrong location in a sentence, they are called misplaced modifiers. In the sample sentence, the modifier beginning with including follows the word father. Is that the word that the modifier is describing, or is the modifier misplaced? Should the modifier be moved to a better location in the sentence, or is this the best place for it?

Choice C questions the choice of prepositions. Standard usage has movement occurring from a point of origin to (or toward) the point of destination.

The following two questions test your vocabulary. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

2.

Ronnie was _______ about not enjoying spending her summer with her father, no matter what her mother and brother said.

  1. adamant

  2. adept

  3. adroit

  4. adumbrate

In order to select the best word, you not only need to know the definition of the word, but you also need to insert the words into the sentence to make sure the resulting sentence makes sense.

Adamant, choice A, means utterly unyielding, despite pleas to the contrary. Adept, choice B, means quite skilled. Adroit, choice C, means skillful. And adumbrate, choice D, means to foreshadow somewhat, or give vague clues about future events.

3.

Although Jonah appears _______ to spend time with his father, Ronnie is _______ to even visit him.

  1. resolved… resistant

  2. reluctant… fortunate

  3. eager… disinclined

  4. excited… enthusiastic

Not only do you need to know the words’ definitions to answer this question, you also must use both words in the sentence to make sure the resulting sentence makes sense. In addition, notice the clues in the sentence. The word although sets up a contrast; the structure of the sentence indicates that the two words are going to have dissimilar or even opposite meanings.

In choice A, resolved means determined and resistant means in opposition to. In choice B, reluctant means hesitant and fortunate means lucky. In choice C, eager means looking forward to and disinclined means lacking desire. In choice D, excited means emotionally aroused and enthusiastic means eagerly interested.

Question 4 asks you to analyze how an author’s choices contribute to the novel’s overall structure and meaning.

4.

The last sentence of the prologue, “Ronnie hesitated; then, with a sigh, she began to tell a story that still felt utterly senseless to her, even with the benefit of hindsight,” achieves each of the following goals EXCEPT:

  1. revealing the basic narrative structure of the entire novel

  2. indicating that the primary narrative will be told in the form of a flashback

  3. demonstrating that Ronnie is an unreliable narrator

  4. showing that Ronnie hasn’t had time to fully process the events of the past summer

First, reread the sentence to see what you notice. The question indicates that three of the four choices are indeed revealed through the sentence.

Choice A mentions narrative structure, which is the way the story is going to be told. Some stories are linear—the plot follows a straight line from beginning to end. Others are circular in nature, where bits and pieces of the story are revealed one at a time, like peeling away layers of an onion. The structure also refers to techniques that an author may use, such as flashbacks, dialogue, letters, and framing (a story within a story).

Choice B mentions flashback, which is a narrative technique where the narrator takes the reader back in time. A flashback is a device that an author might choose to use as a part of his or her narrative structure; in this case, the two terms are closely intertwined.

Choice C uses the term unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator is one of two things: someone who cannot or does not fully understand the world around him or her, which means his or her judgments cannot be trusted by the reader, or someone who may have a reason to be purposely misleading the reader. For example, Huckleberry Finn is too young to fully understand the significance of events that he is narrating in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The term unreliable narrator does not mean that the character is a liar or morally no good; rather, he or she may just be naive.

Choice D is a test of your comprehension. Does the sentence state that Ronnie hasn’t had enough time to deal with the events of the summer?

Question 5 tests your comprehension and your ability to use strong and thorough textual evidence to draw an inference from the text.

5.

All of the following contrasts are either mentioned directly or alluded to in the prologue EXCEPT those between:

  1. religious and atheistic beliefs

  2. summer and winter

  3. the present and the past

  4. right and wrong

The inference that you draw will be based on the details provided in the text. For example, words such as buds, new growth, and warmer temperatures may make you infer that the writer is referring to the season of spring, even if the word spring is not specifically used.

You should eliminate choice A if both religious and atheistic beliefs are mentioned or alluded to in the prologue. You should eliminate choice B if both summer and winter are mentioned. You should eliminate choice C if a time prior to the current time period is mentioned, and you should eliminate choice D if the prologue refers to correct or incorrect decisions made by the characters. What is not eliminated will be your answer.

Question 6 requires you to make an inference based on textual evidence.

6.

What is the primary purpose of the prologue?

  1. to provide exposition

  2. to build suspense

  3. to develop the protagonist

  4. to establish the conflict

The key word in the question is primary, which means main. Therefore, although many of the choices may be true of the prologue, one of the choices should clearly outweigh the others.

The exposition, choice A, is the background information, which answers all the questions that a reporter asks—who, what, where, when, why, and how? Suspense, choice B, is a situation where more questions are raised than are answered. The goal of building suspense is to entice the reader to keep on reading. The protagonist, choice C, is the main character. Not only should the prologue mention the protagonist, readers should also learn a lot about who the character is and what the character is like. The conflict, choice D, is the main problem or issue of the novel.

Question 7 tests your knowledge of literary terms.

7.

“She’d felt like a prisoner being transferred to a rural penitentiary.” Identify the literary term used in this sentence.

  1. allusion

  2. metaphor

  3. personification

  4. simile

Knowing about figures of speech will help you answer this question. An allusion, choice A, is an indirect reference. Some of the most common types of allusions are historical (when someone meets his Waterloo, it’s a reference to Napoleon); biblical (such as John Coffey in The Green Mile being a Christ figure); mythological (a reference to a Greek or Roman myth, such as someone having the Midas touch; and literary, a reference to a character in a work of literature, such as a couple being similar to Romeo and Juliet). A metaphor, choice B, is a comparison between two unlike things not using a connective word—for example, “Michael Phelps was a flying fish in the pool.” Personification, choice C, is giving nonhuman things a human characteristic, such as in “Opportunity knocked on the door.” And a simile, choice D, is a comparison of unlike things using a connective word, such as like, as, or than—for example, “She looked as fresh as the morning snow.”

Question 8 tests your comprehension and your ability to differentiate among different types of irony.

8.

Ronnie’s mother tells her, “I’m glad to see your nap put you in a better mood.” This is an example of what type of irony?

  1. cosmic

  2. dramatic

  3. situational

  4. verbal

A good definition of irony is “a situation where there’s a contrast between appearance and reality.” In cosmic irony—choice A—no matter what a character does, the world seems to be against him or her. The most famous example of this is the Greek myth of Oedipus, who was fated to grow up and kill his father and marry his mother, no matter what he or anyone else tried to do to prevent this.

In dramatic irony, choice B, the words and actions of the characters have a different meaning for the reader than they do for the characters themselves. This is the result of the reader having more background information than the character does. For example, in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, the audience knows that Juliet is not really dead when Romeo discovers her body in the crypt, but he does not, and so he stabs himself.

Situational irony, choice C, is when the outcome is the opposite of what is expected. In Macbeth, Macbeth’s misinterpretation of the witches’ prophecies is an example of situational irony because he expects their words to mean one thing, but in reality they mean something entirely different.

Verbal irony, choice D, is saying one thing but meaning the opposite. In Julius Caesar, when Mark Antony talks about the conspirators as he stands over the body of dead Caesar, he says, “And Brutus is an honorable man.” Clearly, Antony does not think Brutus is really honorable.

Question 9 tests your knowledge of literary terms.

9.

Ronnie bemoans the “zillions of pine trees” that she notices from the car window. Identify the figure of speech used to portray her frustration.

  1. hyperbole

  2. metaphor

  3. onomatopoeia

  4. personification

Again, knowledge of literary terms will help you to answer this question. Hyperbole, choice A, is an overexaggeration to make a point. An example would be, “Everyone who reads this learning guide will know what hyperbole is because hyperbole will be explained a bazillion times.” A metaphor, choice B, is a comparison between unlike things without using a connective word—For example, “LeBron James is an animal on the basketball court.” Onomatopoeia, choice C, is a word that suggests the very sound it describes, such as buzz, sizzle, and boom. Personification, choice D, is giving nonhuman things a human characteristic, such as in “Opportunity knocked on the door.”

Question 10 asks you to draw an inference from chapter 1 regarding the development of Ronnie’s character.

10.

Based on her words and actions in chapter 1, Ronnie can best be characterized as:

  1. depressed and curious

  2. engaged and aloof

  3. respectful and tolerant

  4. disgruntled and imprisoned

You need to read and understand the chapter to know what Ronnie thinks, says, and does. Then you need to understand the two words for each choice. Remember, both words need to be an accurate description in order for the choice to be considered correct.

In choice A, depressed means sad and gloomy, and curious means inquisitive, eager to learn or know. In choice B, engaged means involved in and occupied with, and aloof means indifferent and uninterested. In choice C, respectful means showing politeness, and tolerant means able to put up with something. In choice D, disgruntled means sulky and discontented, and imprisoned means confined and restrained.

2

Steve

Steve Miller played the piano with keyed-up intensity, anticipating his children’s arrival at any minute.

The piano was located in a small alcove off the small living room of the beachside bungalow he now called home. Behind him were items that represented his personal history. It wasn’t much. Aside from the piano, Kim had been able to pack his belongings into a single box, and it had taken less than half an hour to put everything in place. There was a snapshot of him with his father and mother when he was young, another photo of him playing the piano as a teen. They were mounted between both of the degrees he’d received, one from Chapel Hill and the other from Boston University, and below it was a certificate of appreciation from Juilliard after he’d taught for fifteen years. Near the window were three framed schedules outlining his tour dates. Most important, though, were half a dozen photographs of Jonah and Ronnie, some tacked to the walls or framed and sitting atop the piano, and whenever he looked at them, he was reminded of the fact that despite his best intentions, nothing had turned out the way he’d expected.

The late afternoon sun was slanting through the windows, making the interior of the house stuffy, and Steve could feel beads of sweat beginning to form. Thankfully, the pain in his stomach had lessened since the morning, but he’d been nervous for days, and he knew it would come back. He’d always had a weak stomach; in his twenties, he’d had an ulcer and was hospitalized for diverticulitis; in his thirties, he’d had his appendix removed after it had burst while Kim was pregnant with Jonah. He ate Rolaids like candy, he’d been on Nexium for years, and though he knew he could probably eat better and exercise more, he doubted that either would have helped. Stomach problems ran in his family.

His father’s death six years ago had changed him, and since the funeral, he’d felt as though he’d been on a count-down of sorts. In a way, he supposed he had. Five years ago, he’d quit his position at Juilliard, and a year after that, he’d decided to try his luck as a concert pianist. Three years ago, he and Kim decided to divorce; less than twelve months later, the tour dates began drying up, until they finally ended completely. Last year, he’d moved back here, to the town where he’d grown up, a place he never thought he’d see again. Now he was about to spend the summer with his children, and though he tried to imagine what the fall would bring once Ronnie and Jonah were back in New York, he knew only that leaves would yellow before turning to red and that in the mornings his breaths would come out in little puffs. He’d long since given up trying to predict the future.

This didn’t bother him. He knew predictions were pointless, and besides, he could barely understand the past. These days, all he could say for sure was that he was ordinary in a world that loved the extraordinary, and the realization left him with a vague feeling of disappointment at the life he’d led. But what could he do? Unlike Kim, who’d been outgoing and gregarious, he’d always been more reticent and blended into crowds. Though he had certain talents as a musician and composer, he lacked the charisma or showmanship or whatever it was that made a performer stand out. At times, even he admitted that he’d been more an observer of the world than a participant in it, and in moments of painful honesty, he sometimes believed he was a failure in all that was important. He was forty-eight years old. His marriage had ended, his daughter avoided him, and his son was growing up without him. Thinking back, he knew he had no one to blame but himself, and more than anything, this was what he wanted to know: Was it still possible for someone like him to experience the presence of God?

Ten years ago, he could never have imagined wondering about such a thing. Two years, even. But middle age, he sometimes thought, had made him as reflective as a mirror. Though he’d once believed that the answer lay somehow in the music he created, he suspected now that he’d been mistaken. The more he thought about it, the more he’d come to realize that for him, music had always been a movement away from reality rather than a means of living in it more deeply. He might have experienced passion and catharsis in the works of Tchaikovsky or felt a sense of accomplishment when he’d written sonatas of his own, but he now knew that burying himself in music had less to do with God than a selfish desire to escape.

He now believed that the real answer lay somewhere in the nexus of love he felt for his children, in the ache he experienced when he woke in the quiet house and realized they weren’t here. But even then, he knew there was something more.

And somehow, he hoped his children would help him find it.

A few minutes later, Steve noticed the sun reflecting off the windshield of a dusty station wagon outside. He and Kim had purchased it years ago for weekend outings to Costco and family getaways. He wondered in passing if she’d remembered to change the oil before she’d driven down, or even since he’d left. Probably not, he decided. Kim had never been good at things like that, which was why he’d always taken care of them.

But that part of his life was over now.

Steve rose from his seat, and by the time he stepped onto the porch, Jonah was already out of the car and rushing toward him. His hair hadn’t been combed, his glasses were crooked, and his arms and legs were as skinny as pencils. Steve felt his throat tighten, reminded again of how much he’d missed in the past three years.

“Dad!”

“Jonah!” Steve shouted back as he crossed the rocky sand that constituted his yard. When Jonah jumped into his arms, it was all he could do to remain upright.

“You’ve gotten so big,” he said.

“And you’ve gotten smaller!” Jonah said. “You’re skinny now.”

Steve hugged his son tight before putting him down. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“I am, too. Mom and Ronnie fought the whole time.”

“That’s no fun.”

“It’s okay. I ignored it. Except when I egged them on.”

“Ah,” Steve responded.

Jonah pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Why didn’t Mom let us fly?”

“Did you ask her?”

“No.”

“Maybe you should.”

“It’s not important. I was just wondering.”

Steve smiled. He’d forgotten how talkative his son could be.

“Hey, is this your house?”

“That’s it.”

“This place is awesome!”

Steve wondered if Jonah was serious. The house was anything but awesome. The bungalow was easily the oldest property on Wrightsville Beach and sandwiched between two massive homes that had gone up within the last ten years, making it seem even more diminutive. The paint was peeling, the roof was missing numerous shingles, and the porch was rotting; it wouldn’t surprise him if the next decent storm blew it over, which would no doubt please the neighbors. Since he’d moved in, neither family had ever spoken to him.

“You think so?” he said.

“Hello? It’s right on the beach. What else could you want?” He motioned toward the ocean. “Can I go check it out?”

“Sure. But be careful. And stay behind the house. Don’t wander off.”

“Deal.”

Steve watched him jog off before turning to see Kim approaching. Ronnie had stepped out of the car as well but was still lingering near it.

“Hi, Kim,” he said.

“Steve.” She leaned in to give him a brief hug. “You doing okay?” she asked. “You look thin.”

“I’m okay.”

Behind her, Steve noticed Ronnie slowly making her way toward them. He was struck by how much she’d changed since the last photo Kim had e-mailed. Gone was the all-American girl he remembered, and in her place was a young woman with a purple streak in her long brown hair, black fingernail polish, and dark clothing. Despite the obvious signs of teenage rebellion, he thought again how much she resembled her mother. Good thing, too. She was, he thought, as lovely as ever.

He cleared his throat. “Hi, sweetie. It’s good to see you.”

When Ronnie didn’t answer, Kim scowled at her. “Don’t be rude. Your father’s talking to you. Say something.”

Ronnie crossed her arms. “All right. How about this? I’m not going to play the piano for you.”

“Ronnie!” Steve could hear Kim’s exasperation.

“What?” She tossed her head. “I thought I’d get that out of the way early.”

Before Kim could respond, Steve shook his head. The last thing he wanted was an argument. “It’s okay, Kim.”

“Yeah, Mom. It’s okay,” Ronnie said, pouncing. “I need to stretch my legs. I’m going for a walk.”

As she stomped away, Steve watched Kim struggle with the impulse to call her back. In the end, though, she said nothing.

“Long drive?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“You can’t even imagine it.”

He smiled, thinking that for just an instant, it was easy to imagine they were still married, both of them on the same team, both of them still in love.

Except, of course, that they weren’t.

After unloading the bags, Steve went to the kitchen, where he tapped ice cubes from the old-fashioned tray and dropped them into the mismatched glasses that had come with the place.

Behind him, he heard Kim enter the kitchen. He reached for a pitcher of sweet tea, poured two glasses, and handed one to her. Outside, Jonah was alternately chasing, and being chased by, the waves as seagulls fluttered overhead.

“It looks like Jonah’s having fun,” he said.

Kim took a step toward the window. “He’s been excited about coming for weeks.” She hesitated. “He’s missed you.”

“I’ve missed him.”

“I know,” she said. She took a drink of her tea before glancing around the kitchen. “So this is the place, huh? It’s got… character.”

“By character, I assume you’ve noticed the leaky roof and lack of air-conditioning.”

Kim flashed a brief smile, caught.

“I know it’s not much. But it’s quiet and I can watch the sun come up.”

“And the church is letting you stay here for free?”

Steve nodded. “It belonged to Carson Johnson. He was a local artist, and when he passed away, he left the house to the church. Pastor Harris is letting me stay until they’re ready to sell.”

“So what’s it like living back home? I mean, your parents used to live, what? Three blocks from here?”

Seven, actually. Close. “It’s all right.” He shrugged.

“It’s so crowded now. The place has really changed since the last time I was here.”

“Everything changes,” he said. He leaned against the counter, crossing one leg over the other. “So when’s the big day?” he asked, changing the subject. “For you and Brian?”

“Steve… about that.”

“It’s okay,” he said, raising a hand. “I’m glad you found someone.”

Kim stared at him, clearly wondering whether to accept his words at face value or plunge into sensitive territory.

“In January,” she finally said. “And I want you to know that with the kids… Brian doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t. You’d like him.”

“I’m sure I would,” he said, taking a sip of his tea. He set the glass back down. “How do the kids feel about him?”

“Jonah seems to like him, but Jonah likes everyone.”

“And Ronnie?”

“She gets along with him about as well as she gets along with you.”

He laughed before noting her worried expression. “How’s she really doing?”

“I don’t know.” She sighed. “And I don’t think she does, either. She’s in this dark, moody phase. She ignores her curfew, and half the time I can’t get more than a ‘Whatever’ when I try to talk to her. I try to write it off as typical teenage stuff, because I remember what it was like… but…” She shook her head. “You saw the way she was dressed, right? And her hair and that god-awful mascara?”

“Mmm.”

“And?”

“It could be worse.”

Kim opened her mouth to say something, but when nothing came out, Steve knew he was right. Whatever stage she was going through, whatever Kim’s fears, Ronnie was still Ronnie.

“I guess,” she conceded, before shaking her head. “No, I know you’re right. It’s just been so difficult with her lately. There are times she’s still as sweet as ever. Like with Jonah. Even though they fight like cats and dogs, she still brings him to the park every weekend. And when he was having trouble in math, she tutored him every night. Which is strange, because she’s barely passing any of her classes. And I haven’t told you this, but I made her take the SATs in February. She missed every single question. Do you know how smart you have to be to miss every single question?”

When Steve laughed, Kim frowned. “It’s not funny.”

“It’s kind of funny.”

“You haven’t had to deal with her these last three years.”

He paused, chastened. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” He reached for his glass again. “What did the judge say about her shoplifting?”

“Just what I told you on the phone,” she said with a resigned expression. “If she doesn’t get into any more trouble, it’ll be expunged from her record. If she does it again, though…” She trailed off.

“You’re worried about this,” he started.

Kim turned away. “It’s not the first time, which is the problem,” she confessed. “She admitted to stealing the bracelet last year, but this time, she said she was buying a bunch of stuff at the drugstore and couldn’t hold it all, so she tucked the lipstick in her pocket. She paid for everything else, and when you see the video, it seems to be an honest mistake, but…”

“But you’re not sure.”

When Kim didn’t answer, Steve shook his head. “She’s not on her way to being profiled on America’s Most Wanted. She made a mistake. And she’s always had a good heart.”

“That doesn’t mean she’s telling the truth now.”

“And it doesn’t mean she lied, either.”

“So you believe her?” Her expression was a mixture of hope and skepticism.

He sifted through his feelings about the incident, as he had a dozen times since Kim had first told him. “Yeah,” he said. “I believe her.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s a good kid.”

“How do you know?” she demanded. For the first time, she sounded angry. “The last time you spent any time with her, she was finishing middle school.” She turned away from him then, crossing her arms as she gazed out the window. Her voice was bitter when she went on. “You could have come back, you know. You could have taught in New York again. You didn’t have to travel around the country, you didn’t have to move here… you could have stayed part of their lives.”

Her words stung him, and he knew she was right. But it hadn’t been that simple, for reasons they both understood, though neither would acknowledge them.

The charged silence passed when Steve eventually cleared his throat. “I was just trying to say that Ronnie knows right from wrong. As much as she asserts her independence, I still believe she’s the same person she always was. In the ways that really matter, she hasn’t changed.”

Before Kim could figure out how or if she should respond to his comment, Jonah burst through the front door, his cheeks flushed.

“Dad! I found a really cool workshop! C’mon! I want to show you!”

Kim raised an eyebrow.

“It’s out back,” Steve said. “Do you want to see it?”

“It’s awesome, Mom!”

Kim turned from Steve to Jonah and back again. “No, that’s okay,” she said. “That sounds like more of a father and son thing. And besides, I should really be going.”

“Already?” Jonah asked.

Steve knew how hard this was going to be for Kim, and he answered for her. “Your mom has a long drive back. And besides, I wanted to take you to the carnival tonight. Could we do that instead?”

Steve watched Jonah’s shoulders sink a fraction.

“I guess that’s okay,” he said.

After Jonah said good-bye to his mom—with Ronnie still nowhere in sight and, according to Kim, unlikely to return soon—Steve and Jonah strolled over to the workshop, a leaning, tin-roofed outbuilding that had come with the property.

For the last three months, Steve had spent most afternoons here, surrounded by assorted junk and small sheets of stained glass that Jonah was now exploring. In the center of the workshop was a large worktable with the beginnings of a stained-glass window, but Jonah seemed far more interested in the weird taxidermy pieces perched on the shelves, the previous owner’s specialty. It was hard not to be mesmerized by the half-squirrel/half-bass creature or the opossum’s head grafted onto the body of a chicken.

“What is this stuff?” Jonah asked.

“It’s supposed to be art.”

“I thought art was like paintings and stuff.”

“It is. But sometimes art is other things, too.”

Jonah wrinkled his nose, staring at the half-rabbit/half-snake. “It doesn’t look like art.”

When Steve smiled, Jonah motioned to the stained-glass window on the worktable. “Was this his, too?” he asked.

“Actually, that’s mine. I’m making it for the church down the street. It burned last year, and the original window was destroyed in the fire.”

“I didn’t know you could make windows.”

“Believe it or not, the artist who used to live here taught me how.”

“The guy who did the animals?”

“The same one.”

“And you knew him?”

Steve joined his son at the table. “When I was a kid, I’d sneak over here when I was supposed to be in Bible study. He made the stained-glass windows for most of the churches around here. See the picture on the wall?” Steve pointed to a small photograph of the Risen Christ tacked to one of the shelves, easy to miss in the chaos. “Hopefully, it’ll look just like that when it’s finished.”

“Awesome,” Jonah said, and Steve smiled. It was obviously Jonah’s new favorite word, and he wondered how many times he’d hear it this summer.

“Do you want to help?”

“Can I?”

“I was counting on it.” Steve gave him a gentle nudge. “I need a good assistant.”

“Is it hard?”

“I was your age when I started, so I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it.”

Jonah gingerly picked up a piece of the glass and examined it, holding it up to the light, his expression serious. “I’m pretty sure I can handle it, too.”

Steve smiled. “Are you still going to church?” he asked.

“Yeah. But it’s not the same one we went to. It’s the one where Brian likes to go. And Ronnie doesn’t always come with us. She locks herself in her room and refuses to come out, but as soon as we leave, she goes over to Starbucks to hang out with her friends. It makes Mom furious.”

“That happens when kids become teenagers. They test their parents.”

Jonah put the glass back on the table. “I won’t,” he said. “I’m always going to be good. But I don’t like the new church very much. It’s boring. So I might not go to that one.”

“Fair enough.” He paused. “I hear you’re not playing soccer this fall.”

“I’m not very good at it.”

“So what? It’s fun, right?”

“Not when other kids make fun of you.”

“They make fun of you?”

“It’s okay. It doesn’t bother me.”

“Ah,” Steve said.

Jonah shuffled his feet, something obviously on his mind. “Ronnie didn’t read any of the letters you sent her, Dad. And she won’t play the piano anymore, either.”

“I know,” Steve answered.

“Mom says it’s because she has PMS.”

Steve almost choked but composed himself quickly. “Do you even know what that means?”

Jonah pushed his glasses up. “I’m not a little kid anymore. It means pissed-at-men syndrome.”

Steve laughed, ruffling Jonah’s hair. “How about we go find your sister? I think I saw her heading toward the festival.”

“Can we ride the Ferris wheel?”

“Whatever you want.”

“Awesome.”

Questions and Explanations for Chapter 2

The ten questions on chapter 2 focus on grammar and usage, vocabulary, characterization, literary terms, and making inferences. Some of the questions combine two or more of these areas, requiring you to synthesize your knowledge, make inferences, and interpret the text. The questions are designed to determine both your current level of understanding of the novel and your ability to answer higher-level questions.

The following sentence tests your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. The sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If there is no error, select choice D.

1.

Steve’s relationship with his children it outlook for the summer.

Although choice A may appear to be referencing the verb and complement (the word that follows the verb and completes the thought), it is actually testing the use of the comma. If both groups of words before the comma and after the comma are complete thoughts and can stand alone as two independent sentences, then a comma by itself is not the correct way to punctuate the compound sentence. Look at the following example: “I read the paper, my wife made dinner.” Both groups of words before and after the comma are complete thoughts, so they need to be joined with a semicolon or with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet). The example should read, “I read the paper, and my wife made dinner,” or “I read the paper; my wife made dinner.”

Choice B questions your understanding of the difference between the homophones affect and effect. Remember that affect is typically used as a verb, meaning to act on. Effect is typically a noun, meaning something that is produced. If someone or something is doing something, usually the correct word choice is affect—for example, “Research has shown that rereading a passage will affect a student’s level of comprehension.”

Choice C tests your understanding of the homophones their, there, and they’re. Their is a possessive pronoun, showing joint ownership, as in, “This is their house.” There is an adverb of place—for example, “Put it there.” They’re is a contraction for they are—for example, “They’re going to the beach.”

The following two questions test your vocabulary. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

2.

The tension was _______ as Ronnie walked out of the car and moved toward her father.

  1. doubtful

  2. intrepid

  3. palatial

  4. palpable

Substitute the definition of each word in the sentence in order to determine which one makes the most sense. Doubtful, choice A, means uncertain. Intrepid, choice B, means fearless. Palatial, choice C, means magnificent. Palpable, choice D, means plainly seen.

3.

The artist who lived in the house _______ Steve left behind some _______ creations, such as an opossum’s head attached to a chicken’s body.

  1. after… weird

  2. prior to… avant-garde

  3. previous to… sanguine

  4. following… abnormal

In the sentence the context clues left behind indicates that the artist lived in the house before Steve, and the words after creations are an example that illustrates the adjective used to describe creations.

The first word in choices A and D are obviously incorrect, and you should eliminate both of these choices. In choice B, avant-garde means daring or experimental. In choice C, sanguine means cheerful and optimistic.

Question 4 checks your comprehension and your ability to make inferences.

4.

Details from chapter 2 suggest the piano might be a symbol for all of the following EXCEPT:

  1. Jonah

  2. Ronnie

  3. Steve

  4. the relationship between Ronnie and Steve

A symbol is something that has meaning in and of itself and also stands for something else. An example might be the American flag, which is a piece of fabric with the stars and stripes on it (literally, it is a flag), but the American flag also symbolizes, among other things, democracy, freedom, and the fifty states. In order for something to serve as a symbol, there must be an obvious association with it.

According to the question, three of the four choices must have some logical connection to the piano, or else the piano couldn’t serve as a symbol. In order to eliminate choice A, identify the connection Jonah has with the piano. In order to eliminate choice B, determine if Ronnie has a connection to the piano. Likewise, in order to eliminate choice C, you must determine if Steve has a connection to the piano. In order to eliminate choice D, determine if there is any indication that the relationship between Steve and Ronnie has anything to do with the piano.

Question 5 asks you to analyze the impact of specific details on character development and to use textual evidence to support inferences drawn from the text.

5.

Steve’s loneliness is illustrated by all of the following EXCEPT:

  1. the pictures of his family on the piano

  2. his empty house

  3. the fact that his neighbors haven’t spoken to him

  4. his passion for playing the piano

Based on the question, you know that three of the four choices do illustrate a sense of loneliness. Thus, you must consider how each choice may be related to the topic of loneliness.

In choice A, the pictures by themselves may not indicate loneliness unless you consider what other items exist in Steve’s house and how he feels when he looks at them. Then, think about how often Steve sees his family, especially his children. The pictures serve as a constant reminder that Steve is not with his family. Choice B uses the adjective empty. Empty not only describes the physical state of Steve’s house, it also serves as a metaphor for the state of Steve’s emotional and spiritual life. Choice C illustrates that Steve isn’t just new to the neighborhood; he is the new neighbor that nobody talks to. Choice D is a true statement about a solitary activity. But does this statement signify loneliness? Remember, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. In fact, this activity may be the one thing Steve does to counter the loneliness he is feeling.

Question 6 asks you to analyze how the author’s choices contribute to the novel’s overall structure and meaning.

6.

Stylistically, Sparks’s withholding of information from the reader—such as simply mentioning “the pain in his stomach had lessened since the morning”—achieves each of the following EXCEPT:

  1. enabling the author to use foreshadowing effectively

  2. providing the author with an opportunity to develop the conflict

  3. building suspense

  4. enabling readers to connect with Ronnie

Foreshadowing, choice A, is hints or clues of things to come. Writers use foreshadowing to prepare readers for future events. The conflict, choice B, is the struggle or problem that exists. Although novels typically have more than one type of conflict, if the reader isn’t aware of the main conflict, it is difficult to have an appreciation for what is driving the plot. Suspense, choice C, occurs when readers feel compelled to discover the unknown. If readers know what is coming, then there is no suspense. Choice D speaks of a connection with a character. If Ronnie doesn’t know certain things and if she and readers learn of them at the same time, then it is easier for readers to identify with Ronnie because they are in the same position she is.

Question 7 checks your comprehension and your ability to draw inferences from the text.

7.

Ronnie’s first words to her father, “I’m not going to play the piano for you,” indicate what?

  1. She has lost the ability to play the piano.

  2. She is teasing her father.

  3. She defines her relationship with her father through the piano.

  4. She considers her piano playing a personal and private joy.

In order to make a correct inference, it’s important to look at this line in context. In order to answer this question correctly, you need to know what Ronnie is saying and how she is saying it. Ronnie has no desire to see her father and didn’t answer his greeting; thus, she clearly is stating this line with a typical teenager’s attitude.

Choice A states that Ronnie is no longer able to play the piano, yet this is contrary to her words, which indicate she can play but is choosing not to. Choice B requires an understanding of her tone as she states the line. Choice C indicates that she thinks her father expects her to play for him. Choice D would only be correct if the emphasis was solely on the words for you, and there was never any indication that Ronnie was planning on playing just for her own pleasure.

Question 8 checks your comprehension and your understanding of character development.

8.

Identify all the ways Ronnie’s character is developed in chapter 2.

  1. through what she says

  2. through a physical description

  3. by what she does

  4. through what other characters say about her

  5. all of the above

Note that the question asks for ways that Ronnie’s character is developed; thus, there will be more than one correct answer. You must select all the correct responses. The methods of characterization include (1) what a character says and does, (2) what a character thinks, (3) what a character looks like, (4) what the narrator tells the reader about a character, and (5) what other characters say about the character.

The five answer choices are all methods of character development. You just need to determine which ones are used in chapter 2.

Question 9 tests your knowledge of literary terms.

9.

In passing, Steve mentions Tchaikovsky. This is an example of what?

  1. allusion

  2. hyperbole

  3. metaphor

  4. personification

An allusion, choice A, is an indirect reference. Some of the most common types of allusions are historical, such as when it’s mentioned that someone met his Waterloo, it’s a reference to Napoleon; biblical, such as John Coffey in The Green Mile being a Christ figure; mythological, a reference to a Greek or Roman myth, such as someone having the Midas touch; and literary, a reference to a character in a work of literature, such as a couple being like Romeo and Juliet.

Hyperbole, choice B, is an obvious and intentional exaggeration—for example, saying, “This learning guide has discussed hyperbole about four million times.”

A metaphor, choice C, is a comparison between unlike things without using a connective word—for example, “LeBron James is an animal on the basketball court.”

Personification, choice D, is giving nonhuman things a human characteristic, such as in “Opportunity knocked on the door.”

Question 10 requires you to make an inference based on textual evidence.

10.

What is the primary purpose of chapter 2?

  1. to identify the setting

  2. to establish the primary conflict

  3. to develop the theme

  4. to develop the characters

Although all of these choices may exist in chapter 2, you need to determine which is the most significant. The setting, choice A, refers to both time and place. If chapter 2 is mainly about establishing details and providing descriptions about North Carolina, select this option. Choice B states that readers learn the primary conflict, or struggle, in the novel. Choice C refers to the central idea, or theme, of the novel—that is, what The Last Song is really all about. And choice D mentions characters; thus, if readers learn more about Ronnie, Steve, and Jonah, this would be the best choice.

3

Ronnie

The fair was crowded. Or rather, Ronnie corrected herself, the Wrightsville Beach Seafood Festival was crowded. As she paid for a soda from one of the concession stands, she could see cars parked bumper to bumper along both roads leading to the pier and even noted a few enterprising teenagers renting out their driveways near the action.

So far, though, the action was boring. She supposed she’d been hoping that the Ferris wheel was a permanent fixture and that the pier offered shops and stores like the boardwalk in Atlantic City. In other words, she hoped it would be the kind of place she could see herself hanging out in the summer. No such luck. The festival was temporarily located in the parking lot at the head of the pier, and it mostly resembled a small county fair. The rickety rides were part of a traveling carnival, and the parking lot was lined with overpriced game booths and greasy food concessions. The whole place was kind of… gross.

Not that anyone else seemed to share her opinion. The place was packed. Old and young, families, groups of middle-schoolers ogling one another. No matter which way she went, she always seemed to be fighting against the tide of bodies. Sweaty bodies. Big, sweaty bodies, two of whom were squashing her between them as the crowd came to an inexplicable stop. No doubt they’d had both the fried hot dog and fried Snickers bar she’d seen at the concession stand. She wrinkled her nose. So gross.

Spying an opening, she slipped away from the rides and carnival game booths and headed toward the pier. Fortunately, the crowd continued to thin as she moved down the pier, past booths offering homemade crafts for sale. Nothing she could ever imagine herself buying—who on earth would want a gnome constructed entirely from seashells? But obviously someone was buying the stuff or the booths wouldn’t exist.

Distracted, she bumped into a table manned by an elderly woman seated on a folding chair. Wearing a shirt emblazoned with the logo SPCA, she had white hair and an open, cheerful face—the type of grandmother who probably spent all day baking cookies before Christmas Eve, Ronnie guessed. On the table in front of her were pamphlets and a donation jar, along with a large cardboard box. Inside the box were four gray puppies, one of which hopped up on its hind legs to peer over the side at her.

“Hi, little guy,” she said.

The elderly woman smiled. “Do you want to hold him? He’s the fun one. I call him Seinfeld.”

The puppy gave a high-pitched whine.

“No, that’s okay.” He was cute, though. Really cute, even if she didn’t think the name suited him. And she did sort of want to hold him, but she knew she wouldn’t want to put him down if she did. She was a sucker for animals in general, especially abandoned ones. Like these little guys. “They’re going to be okay, right? You’re not going to have them put to sleep, are you?”

“They’ll be fine,” the woman answered. “That’s why we set up the table. So people would adopt them. Last year, we found homes for over thirty animals, and these four have already been claimed. I’m just waiting for the new owners to pick them up on their way out. But there are more at the shelter if you’re interested.”

“I’m only visiting,” Ronnie answered, just as a roar erupted from the beach. She craned her neck, trying to see. “What’s going on? A concert?”

The woman shook her head. “Beach volleyball. They’ve been playing for hours—some kind of tournament. You should go watch. I’ve heard the cheering all day, so the games must be pretty exciting.”

Ronnie thought about it, figuring, Why not? It couldn’t be any worse than what was happening up here. She threw a couple of dollars into the donation jar before heading toward the steps.

The sun was descending, giving the ocean a sheen like liquid gold. On the beach, a few remaining families were congregated on towels near the water, along with a couple of sand castles about to be swept away in the rising tide. Terns darted in and out, hunting for crabs.

It didn’t take long to reach the source of the action. As she inched her way to the edge of the court, she noticed that the other girls in the audience seemed fixated on the two players on the right. No surprise there. The two guys—her age? older?—were the kind that her friend Kayla routinely described as “eye candy.” Though neither of them was exactly Ronnie’s type, it was impossible not to admire their lanky, muscular physiques and the fluid way they moved through the sand.

Especially the taller one, with dark brown hair and the macramé bracelet on his wrist. Kayla would have definitely zeroed in on him—she always went for the tall ones—in the same way the bikini-clad blonde across the court was obviously zeroing in on him. Ronnie had noticed the blonde and her friend right away. They were both thin and pretty, with blindingly white teeth, and obviously used to being the center of attention and having boys drool all over them. They held themselves apart from the crowd and cheered daintily, probably so they wouldn’t mess up their hair. They might as well have been billboards proclaiming it was okay to admire them from a distance, but don’t get too close. Ronnie didn’t know them, but she already didn’t like them.

She turned her attention back to the game just as the cute guys scored another point. And then another. And still another. She didn’t know what the score was, but they were obviously the better team. And yet, as she watched, she silently began to root for the other guys. It had less to do with the fact that she always rooted for the underdog—which she did—and more to do with the fact that the winning pair reminded her of the spoiled private school types she sometimes ran into at clubs, the Upper East Side boys from Dalton and Buckley who thought they were better than everyone else simply because their dads were investment bankers. She’d seen enough of the so-called privileged crowd to recognize a member when she saw one, and she’d bet her life that those two were definitely part of the popular crowd around here. Her suspicions were confirmed after the next point when the brown-haired guy’s partner winked at the blonde’s tanned, Barbie-doll friend as he got ready to serve. In this town, the pretty people clearly all knew one another.

Why wasn’t she surprised by that?

The game suddenly seemed less interesting, and she turned to leave just as another serve sailed over the net. She vaguely heard someone shouting as the opposing team returned the serve, but before she had taken more than a couple of steps, she felt the spectators around her beginning to jostle one another, knocking her off balance for just an instant.

An instant too long.

She turned just in time to see one of the players rushing toward her at full speed, his head craning to catch sight of the wayward ball. She didn’t have time to react before he slammed into her. She felt him grab her shoulders in a simultaneous attempt to stop his momentum and prevent her from falling. She felt her arm jerk on impact and watched almost in fascination as the lid flew off the Styrofoam cup, soda arcing through the air before drenching her face and shirt.

And then, just like that, it was over. Up close, she saw the brown-haired player staring at her, his eyes wide with shock.

“Are you okay?” he panted.

She could feel the soda dripping down her face and soaking through her shirt. Vaguely, she heard someone in the crowd begin to laugh. And why shouldn’t someone laugh? It had been such a fantastic day already.

“I’m fine,” she snapped.

“Are you sure?” the guy gasped. For what it was worth, he seemed genuinely contrite. “I ran into you kind of hard.”

“Just… let me go,” she said through clenched teeth.

He hadn’t seemed to realize he was still gripping her shoulders, and his hands instantly released their pressure. He took a quick step back and automatically reached for his bracelet. He rotated it almost absently. “I’m really sorry about that. I was going for the ball and—”

“I know what you were doing,” she said. “I survived, okay?”

With that, she turned away, wanting nothing more than to get as far away from here as possible. Behind her, she heard someone call out, “C’mon, Will! Let’s get back to the game!” But as she pushed her way through the crowd, she was conscious somehow of his continuing gaze until she vanished from sight.

Her shirt wasn’t ruined, but that didn’t make her feel much better. She liked this shirt, a memento from the Fall Out Boy concert that she’d sneaked out to with Rick last year. Her mom had almost blown a gasket about that one, and it wasn’t simply because Rick had a tattoo of a spiderweb on his neck and more piercings in his ears than Kayla did; it was because she’d lied about where they were going, and she hadn’t made it home until the following afternoon, since they’d ended up crashing at Rick’s brother’s place in Philadelphia. Her mom forbade Ronnie from seeing or even speaking to Rick ever again, a rule that Ronnie broke the very next day.

It wasn’t that she loved Rick; frankly, she didn’t even like him that much. But she was angry at her mom, and it felt right at the time. But when she got to Rick’s place, he was already stoned and drunk again, just as he’d been at the concert, and she realized that if she continued to see him, he’d continue to pressure her to try whatever it was he was taking, just as he’d done the night before. She spent only a few minutes at his place before heading to Union Square for the rest of the afternoon, knowing it was over between them.

She wasn’t naive about drugs. Some of her friends smoked pot, a few did cocaine or ecstasy, and one even had a nasty meth habit. Everyone but her drank on the weekends. Every club and party she went to offered easy access to all of it. Still, it seemed that whenever her friends smoked or drank or popped the pills they swore made the evening worthwhile, they’d spend the rest of the night slurring their words or staggering or vomiting or losing control completely and doing something really stupid. Something usually involving a guy.

Ronnie didn’t want to go there. Not after what happened to Kayla last winter. Someone—Kayla never knew who—slipped some GHB into her drink, and though she had only a vague recollection of what happened next, she was pretty sure she remembered being in a room with three guys she’d met for the first time that night. When she woke the following morning, her clothes were strewn around the room. Kayla never said anything more—she preferred to pretend it had never happened at all and regretted having told Ronnie even that much—but it wasn’t hard to connect the dots.

When she reached the pier, Ronnie set down her half-empty drink cup and dabbed furiously at her shirt with her wet napkin. It seemed to be working, but the napkin was disintegrating into tiny white flakes that resembled dandruff.

Great.

She wished the guy had rammed into someone else. She was only there for what, ten minutes? What were the odds that she’d turn away at the same instant the ball came flying her way? And that she’d be holding a soda in a crowd at a volleyball game she didn’t even want to watch, in a place she didn’t want to be? In a million years, the same thing could probably never happen again. With odds like that, she should have bought a lottery ticket.

And then there was the guy who did it. Brown-haired, brown-eyed cute guy. Up close, she realized he was way better looking than cute, especially when he got that expression of… concern. He might have been part of the popular crowd, but in the nanosecond their eyes had met, she’d had the strangest sense that he was as real as they came.

Ronnie shook her head to clear her mind of such crazy thoughts. Clearly the sun was affecting her brain. Satisfied that she’d done the best she could with the napkin, she picked up the cup of soda. She planned to throw the rest away, but as she spun around, she felt the cup get jammed between her and someone else. This time, nothing happened in slow motion; the soda instantly covered the front of her shirt.

She froze, staring down at her shirt in disbelief. You’ve got to be kidding.

Standing before her was a girl her age holding a Slurpee, seemingly as surprised as she was. She was dressed in black, and her stringy dark hair hung in unruly curls framing her face. Like Kayla, she had at least half a dozen piercings in each ear, highlighted with a couple of miniature skulls that dangled from her earlobes, and her dark eye shadow and eyeliner gave her an almost feral appearance. As the remains of her soda soaked through Ronnie’s shirt, Goth-looking chick motioned with her Slurpee toward the spreading stain.

“Sucks being you,” she said.

“Ya think?”

“At least the other side matches now.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re trying to be funny.”

“ ‘Witty’ is more like it.”

“Then you might have said something like ‘Maybe you should stick with sippy-cups.’ ”

Goth-chick laughed, a surprisingly girlish sound. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No, I’m from New York. I’m here visiting my dad.”

“For the weekend?”

“No. For the summer.”

“It does suck being you.”

This time, it was Ronnie’s turn to laugh. “I’m Ronnie. It’s short for Veronica.”

“Call me Blaze.”

“Blaze?”

“My real name’s Galadriel. It’s from Lord of the Rings. My mom’s weird like that.”

“At least she didn’t name you Gollum.”

“Or Ronnie.” With a tilt of her head, she motioned over her shoulder. “If you want something dry, there are some Nemo shirts in the booth over there.”

“Nemo?”

“Yeah, Nemo. From the movie? Orange-and-white fish, gimpy flipper? Gets stuck in a fish tank and his dad goes to find him?”

“I don’t want a Nemo shirt, okay?”

“Nemo’s cool.”

“Maybe if you’re six,” Ronnie retorted.

“Suit yourself.”

Before Ronnie could respond, she spied three guys pushing their way through a parting mob. They stood out from the beach crowd with their torn shorts and tattoos, bare chests showing beneath heavy leather jackets. One had a pierced eyebrow and was carrying an old-fashioned boom box; another had a bleached Mohawk and arms completely covered with tattoos. The third, like Blaze, had long black hair offset by milky white skin. Ronnie turned instinctively to Blaze, only to realize that Blaze was gone. In her place stood Jonah.

“What did you spill on your shirt?” he asked. “You’re all wet and sticky.”

Ronnie searched for Blaze, wondering where she’d gone. And why. “Just go away, okay?”

“I can’t. Dad’s looking for you. I think he wants you to come home.”

“Where is he?”

“He stopped to go to the bathroom, but he should be here any minute.”

“Tell him you didn’t see me.”

Jonah thought about it. “Five bucks.”

“What?”

“Gimme five bucks and I’ll forget you were here.”

“Are you serious?”

“You don’t have much time,” he said. “Now it’s ten bucks.”

Over Jonah’s head, she spotted her dad searching the crowd around him. Instinctively she ducked, knowing there was no way she could sneak past him. She glared at her brother, the blackmailer, who’d obviously realized it as well. He was cute and she loved him and she respected his blackmailing abilities, but still, he was her little brother. In a perfect world, he would be on her side. But was he? Of course not.

“I hate you, you know,” she said.

“Yeah, I hate you, too. But it’s still gonna cost you ten bucks.”

“How about five?”

“You missed your chance. But your secret will be safe with me.”

Her dad still hadn’t seen them, but he was getting closer.

“Fine,” she hissed, digging through her pockets. She passed over a crumpled bill and Jonah pocketed the money. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw her father moving in her direction, his head still going from side to side, and she ducked around the booth. Surprising her, Blaze was leaning against the side of the booth, smoking a cigarette.

She smirked. “Problems with your dad?”

“How do I get out of here?”

“That’s up to you.” Blaze shrugged. “But he knows what shirt you’re wearing.”

An hour later, Ronnie was sitting beside Blaze on one of the benches near the end of the pier, still bored, but not quite as bored as she’d been before. Blaze turned out to be a good listener, with a quirky sense of humor—and best of all, she seemed to love New York as much as Ronnie did, even though she’d never been there. She asked questions about the basics: Times Square and the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty—tourist traps that Ronnie tried to avoid at all costs. But Ronnie humored her before describing the real New York: the clubs in Chelsea, the music scene in Brooklyn, and the street vendors in Chinatown, where it was possible to buy bootlegged recordings or fake Prada purses or pretty much anything else for pennies on the dollar.

Talking about those places made her absolutely long to be back home instead of here. Anywhere but here.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to come here either,” Blaze agreed. “Trust me. It’s boring.”

“How long have you lived here?”

“Just my whole life. But at least I’m dressed okay.”

Ronnie had bought the stupid Nemo shirt, knowing she looked ridiculous. The only size the booth had in stock was an extra-large, and the thing practically reached her knees. Its only redeeming feature was that once she donned it, she’d been able to slip unseen past her father. Blaze had been right about that.

“Someone told me Nemo was cool.”

“She was lying.”

“What are we still doing out here? My dad’s probably gone by now.”

Blaze turned. “Why? Do you want to go back to the carnival? Maybe go to the haunted house?”

“No. But there’s got to be something else going on.”

“Not yet. Later there will be. But for now, let’s just wait.”

“For what?”

Blaze didn’t answer. Instead, she stood and turned around, facing the blackened water. Her hair moved in the breeze, and she seemed to stare at the moon. “I saw you earlier, you know.”

“When?”

“When you were at the volleyball game.” She motioned down the pier. “I was standing over there.”

“And?”

“You seemed out of place.”

“So do you.”

“Which is why I was standing on the pier.” She hopped up onto the railing and took a seat, facing Ronnie. “I know you don’t want to be here, but what did your dad do to make you so mad?”

Ronnie wiped her palms on her pants. “It’s a long story.”

“Does he live with his girlfriend?”

“I don’t think he has a girlfriend. Why?”

“Consider yourself lucky.”

“What are you talking about?”

“My dad lives with his girlfriend. This is his third one since the divorce, by the way, and she’s the worst by far. She’s only a few years older than I am and she dresses like a stripper. For all I know, she was a stripper. It makes me sick every time I have to go there. It’s like she doesn’t know how to act around me. One minute she tries to give me advice like she’s my mom, and the next minute she’s trying to be my best friend. I hate her.”

“And you live with your mom?”

“Yeah. But now she has a boyfriend, and he’s at the house all the time. And he’s a loser, too. He wears this ridiculous toupee because he went bald when he was like twenty or something, and he’s always telling me that I want to think about giving college a try. Like I care what he thinks. It’s just all screwed up, you know?”

Before Ronnie could answer, Blaze jumped back down. “C’mon. I think they’re getting ready to start. You’ve got to see this.”

Ronnie followed Blaze back up the pier, toward a crowd surrounding what seemed to be a street show. Startled, she realized that the performers were the three thuggish guys she’d spotted earlier. Two of them were break-dancing to music blaring from the boom box, while the one with long black hair stood in the center juggling what seemed to be flaming golf balls. Every now and then he would stop juggling and simply hold the ball, rotating it between his fingers or rolling it across the back of his hand or up one arm and down the other. Twice, he closed his fist over the fireball, nearly extinguishing it, only to move his hand, allowing the flames to escape out the tiny opening near his thumb.

“Do you know him?” Ronnie said.

Blaze nodded. “That’s Marcus.”

“Is he wearing some sort of protective coating on his hands?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Not if you hold the fireball right. It’s awesome, though, isn’t it?”

Ronnie had to agree. Marcus extinguished two of the balls and then relit them again by touching them to the third. On the ground lay an upturned magician’s hat, and Ronnie watched as people began tossing money into it.

“Where does he get the fireballs?”

“He makes them. I can show you how. It’s not hard. All you need is a cotton T-shirt, needle and thread, and some lighter fluid.”

As the music continued to blare, Marcus tossed the three fireballs to the guy with the Mohawk and lit two more. They juggled them back and forth between each other like circus clowns using bowling pins, faster and faster, until one throw went awry.

Except that it didn’t. The guy with the pierced eyebrow caught it soccer-ball style and began bouncing it from foot to foot as though it were nothing more than a Hacky Sack. After extinguishing three of the fireballs, the other two followed suit, the entire troupe kicking the two fireballs back and forth between them. The crowd started to clap, and money rained into the hat as the music built to a crescendo. Then all at once, the remaining fireballs were caught and extinguished simultaneously as the song thundered to a close.

Ronnie had to admit she’d never seen anything like it. Marcus walked over to Blaze and folded her into a long, lingering kiss that seemed wildly inappropriate in public. He opened his eyes slowly, staring right at Ronnie before he pushed Blaze away.

“Who’s that?” he asked, motioning in Ronnie’s direction.

“That’s Ronnie,” Blaze said. “She’s from New York. I just met her.”

Mohawk and Pierced Eyebrow joined Marcus and Blaze in their scrutiny, making Ronnie feel distinctly uncomfortable.

“New York, huh?” Marcus asked, pulling a lighter from his pocket and igniting one of the fireballs. He held the flaming orb motionless between his thumb and forefinger, making Ronnie wonder again how he could do that without getting burned.

“Do you like fire?” he called out.

Without waiting for an answer, he threw the fireball in her direction. Ronnie jumped out of the way, too startled to respond. The ball landed behind her just as a police officer rushed forward, stamping out the flame.

“You three,” he called out, pointing. “Out. Now. I’ve told you before that you can’t do your little show on the pier, and next time, I swear I’m gonna bring you in.”

Marcus held up his hands and took a step backward. “We were just leaving.”

The boys grabbed their coats and began moving up the pier, toward the carnival rides. Blaze followed, leaving Ronnie alone. Ronnie felt the officer’s gaze on her, but she ignored him. Instead, she hesitated only briefly before going after them.

Questions and Explanations for Chapter 3

The ten questions on chapter 3 focus on grammar and usage, vocabulary, characterization, literary terms, and the ability to make inferences regarding the use of an allusion. Some of the questions combine two or more of these areas, requiring you to synthesize your knowledge, make inferences, and interpret the text. The questions are designed to determine both your current level of understanding of the novel and your ability to answer higher-level questions.

The following sentence tests your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. The sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If there is no error, select choice D.

1.

Ronnie that the residents in her summer home are not as they remind her of people from New York.

In order to answer this question, you need to be able to recognize the grammar rules being tested. Choice A analyzes the introductory participial phrase (a form of a verb acting as an adjective). You need to determine if the phrase walking along the pier describes Ronnie. If it does, the choice is correct. Choice B is checking subject and verb agreement. Determine which is correct, “Ronnie realize” or “Ronnie realizes.” Choice C is checking to see if you understand that the word unique means one of a kind and that the modifier very is unnecessary. Something is either unique or it isn’t; there are no degrees of uniqueness.

The following two questions test your vocabulary. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

2.

Blaze’s “dark eye shadow and eyeliner gave her an almost _______ appearance.”

  1. feral

  2. happy

  3. ignoble

  4. naive

In addition to substituting the definition of the word into the blank, recognize that the adjective relates to the physical description of “dark eye shadow and eyeliner.” Imagine what Blaze must look like before you answer this question.

Feral, choice A, means wild. Happy, choice B, means delighted. Ignoble, choice C, means inferior, and naive, choice D, means having a simple nature that lacks worldly experience.

3.

Marcus and his _______ seem to enjoy _______ authority.

  1. chums… respecting

  2. colleagues… undermining

  3. adversaries… ignoring

  4. cronies… flouting

Not only is this question testing your vocabulary, it is also checking your comprehension. If you don’t know who Marcus is, you are not going to be able to answer the question. In choice A, chums refers to close companions and respecting means showing deferential regard. In choice B, colleagues are fellow members in a profession and undermining means weakening secretly or by degrees. In choice C, adversaries are enemies and ignoring means paying no attention to something or someone. In choice D, cronies are friends and flouting means expressing scorn and contempt for something or someone, or defying with open contempt.

Question 4 tests your knowledge and application of literary terms.

4.

“The sun was descending, giving the ocean a sheen like liquid gold.” Identify the figure of speech used to describe the scene.

  1. hyperbole

  2. metaphor

  3. personification

  4. simile

Hyperbole, choice A, is an exaggerated statement used to heighten effect and to emphasize a point—for example, “This learning guide has defined hyperbole a million times already.” A metaphor, choice B, is a comparison between unlike things without using a connective word—for example, “LeBron James is an animal on the basketball court.” Personification, choice C, is to give nonhuman things human characteristics—for example, saying, “The leaves danced in the wind.” And a simile, choice D, is a comparison of unlike things using a connective word, such as like, as, or than. An example of a simile would be saying, “She looked as fresh as the morning snow.”

Question 5 checks your comprehension and asks you to determine the type of irony being used.

5.

After getting soda spilled on her, Ronnie thinks, “It had been such a fantastic day already.” Identify the type of irony used here.

  1. cosmic

  2. dramatic

  3. situational

  4. verbal

A good definition of irony is “a situation where there’s a contrast between appearance and reality.” In cosmic irony, choice A, no matter what a character does, the world seems to be against him or her. The most famous example of this is the Greek myth of Oedipus, who was fated to grow up and kill his father and marry his mother, no matter what he or anyone else tried to do to prevent this.

In dramatic irony, choice B, the words and actions of the characters have a different meaning for the reader than they do for the characters themselves. This is the result of the reader having more background information than the character has. For example, in the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, the audience knows that Juliet is not really dead when Romeo discovers her body in the crypt, but he does not, and so he stabs himself.

Situational irony, choice C, is when the outcome is the opposite of what is expected. In Macbeth, Macbeth’s misinterpretation of the witches’ prophecies is an example of situational irony because he expects their words to mean one thing, but in reality they mean something else entirely.

Verbal irony, choice D, is saying one thing but meaning the opposite. In Julius Caesar, when Mark Antony talks about the conspirators as he stands over the body of dead Caesar, he says, “And Brutus is an honorable man.” Clearly, Antony does not think Brutus is really honorable.

Question 6 asks you to analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding character and plot development and your knowledge of literary terms.

6.

Details regarding Will’s macramé bracelet are mentioned a couple of times. First, Ronnie notices him wearing it; then he automatically reaches for it and rotates it while talking with Ronnie after he crashed into her. Unbeknownst to readers and Ronnie at this point in time, the macramé bracelet will become a significant object in the novel. This repeated mentioning of it at this early stage of the novel is an example of what stylistic device?

  1. anaphora

  2. exposition

  3. foreshadowing



Continues...

Excerpted from The Last Song by Sparks, Nicholas Copyright © 2009 by Sparks, Nicholas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 3845 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    great book

    I have been a fan of Nicolas Sparks since his first release and was never disappointed. The last song was one of the best books I have read.

    68 out of 73 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    So good!

    This was my first Nicholas Sparks book that I read, and I absolutely loved it! I haven't read a a decent book in a long time, so I was ecstatic to find out what this book had in store for me, and it did not disappoint. I honestly could NOT put down the book for my life, I would stay up until four in the morning reading it...I was exhausted, but the book was so worth it!I loved everything about this book, and I strongly recommend everyone to read it.

    64 out of 67 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A letdown from page one

    I have been a fan of Nicolas Sparks since his first release. I also own a copy of every book and I have to say that this book by far is the worst book I have ever read. Its great if you are a tween that adores Miley Cyrus but Mr Sparks has let down his fans that rely on a more mature read. This book lacks the draw of his other books and by the end of the second chapter I was bored to tears. Hopefully Mr Sparks will focus on writing better books and stop focusing on making movies. He's an author NOT a playwright. I have to say that I question my loyaly and will start thinking twice about purchasing his books. I returned this book the day after I bought it and was told that several people had done the same thing. Not a very good sign when the book has only been out 2 days.

    28 out of 142 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    Another great Nicholas Sparks book

    Definitely a different kind of book by Nicholas Sparks, but still GREAT! More than just a romantic story. This one looks at relationships between children and their parents too!

    26 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    The Last Song

    I enjoy reading Nicholas Sparks, and I must say that this book met my expectations. Like most of his books, it is a tearjerker. That is what I expect from his books, and I was not disappointed.

    22 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Last Song

    This is the first book I have read by Nicholas Sparks and I was not let down. It was an amazing book that was both heartwarming and breaking. It shows love in all of its different forms. The story is about a girl named Veronica "Ronnie" Miller who has been sent, along with her younger brother Jonah, to spend the summer with their father. She has not talked to her father Steve in three years after her parents divorce. Steve who used to be a former concert pianist and taught at Julliard now lives in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Ronnie will meet some unusual characters and have a summer filled with first love, growing closer to her father, and going through both the greatest happiness and pain in her life. The story is told from four different perspectives: Ronnie, Steve, Will, and Marcus. Throughout the book I laughed and cried. The story is very well written and will leave you thankful for who is in your life. This book has an unexpected twist and I highly recommend.

    20 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A perfect note is struck for The Last Song!

    When you feel you are ordinary individual living life in a world that demands extraordinary how do you reconcile yourself to that. Is aspiring to be just enough acceptable or will it cause you more angst that happiness. But what if our individual ordinary is extraordinary due in fact to being who you are. It is a lovely ride we are taken on if we just stop talking and start listening to the quiet whisper of the one being that is always going to guide us.

    Steve Miller is on this journey of inner reflection and has experienced life in the spotlight as a concert pianist and was great but surrounded by gifted. When it became too much he left New York, his wife and children and moved back to the town he came from, the last place he ever thought he would return. Life there had not ideal having been raised by emotionally stagnant parents but the faith of one pastor inspired him as a child and now as an adult to be and achieve more. Steve aspires to have one wonderful summer with his eighteen year old daughter Ronnie and ten year old son Jonah. They have been separated for 3 years after the divorce and Steve knows time is running out on his ability to be with them. He needs to put his life in order and let his children know how much he loves them and the future he sees for them. The problem is his daughter would rather be anywhere but with her father and while an equally gifted pianist she refuses out of spite to play. She is angry about the divorce, bitter about the way life is treating her and finding out that being in trouble is apparently getting her more attention that behaving. An eighteen year old has enough to deal with and now she has to spend the summer in nowhereville with her father; perfection is not the name of this adventure.

    But Ronnie finds herself gravitating to trouble at first but as the summer progresses new purpose shows itself and clarifies that life is not all black and white there is some gray. While her father and brother bond while building a stained glass window to replace the one destroyed in the church fire, Ronnie finds that there are other ways to rebuild her broken relationship with her father. But the most unexpected surprise for her is finding love with someone who is not dark and depressed but fun and interesting and likes her just as she is, complicated and moody.

    But with every silver lining there is a dark cloud lurking behind it and when the rain starts pouring on Ronnie the horror that happens is one she never saw coming. Will she be strong enough to deal with the grief she must face and the heartbreak that is inevitable - not knowing how amazing you are is the biggest surprise for all of us. When you are faced with adversity and owning up to your mistakes a person shows their true character when they rise to the occasion, take ownership of the situation and move past it.

    With any Nicholas Sparks book you are taken on an emotional journey that leaves you feeling both elated, drained and out another box of tissue. In this book Mr. Sparks finds a way to explore not only adult emotions but those of a child on the brink of adulthood who faces fears and mistakes and shows the growth process. I believe the greatest gift a writer can bestow upon a reader is a sadness that a book has just ended because you feel like a friend is being parted with. Enjoy this latest entry for you two will be asking "would I be able to do what Ronnie accomplished" and hopefully the answer is yes.

    16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Last Song

    The Last Song is definitely another masterpiece from the acclaimed author, Nicholas Sparks. He has done it again!!! This book out of all the other books he has written has to be the best ! (at least in my humble opinion.)

    This Last Song now has a special place in my heart. The plot in this book hit very close to home. The last few chapters are drenched with my tears. Personally I think all of Nicholas Sparks books should come with a warning.

    Warning: please be advised side effects may include puffy red eyes, over work tear ducts. and a overly abundance use of Kleenex. Proceed with caution in a private place do not read in public. Thank you.

    This book is a must read for any YA fan who enjoys "real life" stories . It touches base with a ton of issues that today's teenagers deal with, divorce, loosing ones way, and the discovery of strength in one's self.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Just wonderful!

    Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's mother insists that she and her little brother, Jonah, spend the summer with the father who left them years earlier at his beach house in North Carolina. Secrets are uncovered as they make their way to reconciliation. This is another wonderful, heartfelt, typically "Sparks" novel that will have the reader in tears.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    The Last Song

    Unlike any other of Nicolas Sparks' book, The Last Song, is not just about love. It's about how a father and daughter reconnect after many years, and needless to say this was a tear jerker and emotional rollercoaster.
    When Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's parents got a divorce she refuses to talk to her father who has moved from her New York City where Ronnie's brother, mother and her live to North Carolina. Needless to say her plan works. But after those three years, her mother decides it would be a good idea to let Ronnie and her 10 year old brother, Jonah, stay with their father for the summer in his new home of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Ronnie reluctantly agrees but when she gets there she wants nothing to do with her father and she goes out and meets new friends. Before long she meets the volleyball-playing heartthrob, Will. She become so preoccupied hanging out with Will that she fails to notice her father's failing health. Soon you see Ronnie regain her relationship with her loving father and the hatred towards him disappear.
    Nicholas Sparks did an excellent job writing this book. From his vivid words and description you can tell he took his time researching Wilmington and coming up with the characters personalities. This is unlike any other book that I have ever read. To find out what happens with Ronnie's dad and the unbelievable ending. You have to read The Last Song By Nicholas Sparks.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING

    This is one of the best books that I have ever read. It made me laugh and it made me cry.Its a story of how people can get through in life and even when this get though someone there will aslways love you.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2009

    I loved it! I recommend it

    First off it threw me off because theres a huge twist in the story! I thought one thing was going to happen but then there was a curve ball out of no where. It made me laugh, cry, and it was one of the greatest books ive ever read. its taught me to always be thankful for what you have because you never know when its going to be gone. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of a good Love Story

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2010

    Far better than I expected

    Seventeen-year-old Ronnie Miller is forced to spend a summer with her father that she has intentionally avoided for three years. Once a common ground and shared hobby between the two, the piano is now a strong barrier between Ronnie and her father. Ronnie's past experiences with her parents influence her daily actions both for better and for worse. Within hours of arriving at her dad's house, Ronnie meets the volleyball player/mechanic/ turtle rescuer and they eventually fall in love, and their relationship soon adds a glimmer of hope to her dreaded upcoming court date. Steve, Ronnie's father, simply accepts her for the way she is, and rather than pressuring her, he takes the time to listen whether she wants to talk or not. While some aspects of the plot are predictable, Nicholas Sparks added extra details, feelings, and unexpected twists that keep the reader involved. When I first picked up The Last Song, I was hesitant on rather I would enjoy it or not, because I'm not the type of person to enjoy the "Cinderella love story." However, before long I was unable to put the book down, and I realized that the story is more about a father-daughter relationship that is able to relate, in some way, to anyone who reads it.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Last Song

    I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this book. This is another must read novel by one of my favorite authors. An unforgettable story of love in all its myriad forms-- first love, love between parents and children--- The last Song demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts. and heal them. This great love story will have you in tears at times.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2010

    Love Nicholas Sparks, He knows Romance!

    I very much enjoyed this book. It is an easy read that is very enjoyable. Only took me 3 days to complete. Sparks does a nice job developing the story line, even though it is a little predictable. I really like his writting style. I just wish I would have read it before knowing that the movie was coming out. I enjoy envisioning the characters in my head as opposed to already having a mental picture before reading it. But still, an excellent read!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

    This book is another excellent book by Sparks. This story is about the trials of a young lady that is hurt by her parents recent divorce and angry that she is being forced to spend the summer with her father in North Carolina, leaving her New York City home.
    Ronnie is newly graduated from high school and not sure what she wants to do. She has given up music due to the pain it brings to her. It reminds her of her father and all the time they spent together. He and her mother are recently divorced and he is living in North Carolina. Her mother sends her and her brother to spend the summer with their father. This angers Ronnie, while her brother is thrilled. Roni meets new people. Blaze and her friends may lead her into trouble. But the hunky volleyball star isn't exactly her type. These relationships all pose their own problems. She has enough to worry about without adding more. When she finds out things about her father she is ashamed and regretful of her behavior. Through pain and suffering she finds out what is really important and the meaning of love in many different places.
    This is one of the best books I have read in some time. It is so descriptive that you can picture the entire story in your mind. You won't want to put it down once you begin reading it. I would recommend it for all ages.
    This book is great for any age reader. The young and old alike can find a character to connect with. The trials and tribulations that Roni goes through are very real in today's world.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This tore my heart out and at the same time brought up memories and butterflies of first love...

    I picked this up so I would know what I was getting myself into when I took my daughter to see the movie and I'm so glad I did. This is the story of the typical angry teenager who is rebelling against everything her divorced parents are asking of her because of what she thinks she knows about them. She has a little brother who adores her and yet, she takes risks and does things that she knows will push her mother's buttons. She is picked up for shoplifting and believes this is why her mother is sending her to her father's for the summer.

    Ronnie's parents have been divorced for three years and she has had no contact with him since he left. He has made attempts through letters, but they have gone unopened and the thought of spending any time with him makes her more angry than she can verbalize. The only thing they had in common was their love of music and playing the piano. Both are extremely talented, but Ronnie refuses to allow that connection to remain and even goes so far as to tell her father to stop playing when she is around. He goes so far as to build a wall around the piano in his house so she doesn't have to see it to show he respects her needs. Ronnie doesn't know what to do with this kind of parent, since her mother was certainly not that way.

    Ronnie makes some interesting and dangerous friends as soon as she arrives. Some fo these friends will be her downfall, and others will be her salvation. While she is growing up, her brother and father begin to build their relationship by spending time flying kites and creating a beautiful stained glass window for the neighborhood church. As the window begins to take shape, so does their relationship. Ronnie's relationship with her father develops as well, but through a very different set of circumstances and in the end allows her to become the young woman her father always knew was there.

    The second half of the book was a heart wrenching, difficult read. I won't give away the details because I think it is important for you as a reader to uncover what Sparks has hidden in the pages and should have been obvious to me from the second I read the title. There are so many layers to this story and the voices of each character are vital to the telling of the story. Grab a box of Kleenex and enjoy the story!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    love nicholas

    IF YOU LOVE NICHOLAS SPARKS YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK. I FOUND THAT I LOVED THE MAIN CHARACTER REGARDLESS OF HER BEHAVIOR ONLY BECAUSE YOU GET TO KNOW THE INNER HER SO WELL. ANYONE WITH A TEENAGE DAUGHTER CAN RELATE TO THE KNOW IT ALL ATTITUDE AND SELFISH BEHAVIOR THE CHARACTER GIVES, BUT YOU LOVE HER ANYWAY. THE LITTLE BROTHER IS A HOOT AND I WOULD LOVE TO TAKE HIM HOME. THE LOVE STORY IS VERY TYPICALLY OF SPARKS BUT WITH A TWIST!! ONE WORTH PICKING UP THE BOOK FOR. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THE MOVIE!!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Every Girl's Fantasy minus the heartbreak

    This book is definitely in my top 5 best books! It's an easy read that captures your heart from the first page. I know i had a hard time putting the book down and forcing myself to go to sleep every night. The plot grabs every teen girl. I know every teen girl will want the romance Ronnie finds herself in as she falls more and more in love and has the perfect summer ever. Her family crisis with her parents only adds to the realistic theme everyone can relate too. The Last Song is a definite must read!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Last Song

    The Last Song is an amazing book by Nicholas Sparks. I have not liked any book I've read since I finished the Inkheart Series. But when I finished The Last Song it moved to the top of my list.

    When Seventeen-year-old Ronnie Miller is sent to live with her dad for the summer (who she has not seen or talked to since her parents were divorced 3 years before)she is in no way happy with her mother. As the weeks pass she meets Will, and grows closer to her dad. She soon learns the secretes Will and her father have kept from her all summer. And as the summer ends she has to make the hardest choices she's ever had to make.

    The Last Song is a great book for anyone who likes Nicholas Sparks, and a good love story.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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