"A Walk to Remember" was one of romance writer Nicholas Sparks' first efforts, after tear-jerkers "Message in a Bottle" and "The Notebook." While all three books were later made into major motion pictures, reading the actual books provides greater depth in the story and character development. The motto of the tale could be "don't judge a book by it's cover," since the story follows two unlikely friends as they explore common ground and develop a romantic relationship.
Like most of Sparks' novels, "A Walk to Remember" is set in 1950s small town North Carolina. There, we meet a group of teenagers who are mischievous and getting into trouble. Since it's a small town, most of the characters know each other, which makes for an intimate novel. The town, New Bern, is painted as one that is deeply religious, yet plagued with rebellion from a new generation. Most of the novel takes place at the high school and in various places around town.
Landon Carter is a troubled teen who gets into trouble with his friends. As penance, he's asked to perform in the Christmas play for the school, opposite the seemingly perfect pastor's daughter, Jamie Sullivan, who utters the pivotal words, "Promise you won't fall in love with me." While the two have nearly nothing in common, they spend time together for the play. Afterward, a friendship blooms, which soon becomes romance. After spending time with Jamie and falling in love, Landon learns that Jamie has a terrible secret that will change both of their lives forever.
The book climaxes when both Landon and the reader learn that Jamie has been diagnosed with leukemia and has been given only a few months to live. The revelation is torturous to Landon, who vows to marry her. Jamie's pastor father is against the relationship at the beginning of the story, but his heart is softened by the devotion Landon shows to his dying daughter. The titular "walk" occurs down the aisle, as teenage Landon and Jamie are married before the story ends, without any clue as to whether Jamie lives or dies.
While the story could be painted as a simple romance, underlying themes give the story more depth. Landon judges Jamie for being unpopular and obedient, while Jamie does the same for Landon's popularity. They're both surprised when they get to know each other better, proving that first impressions are often wrong. Other themes include accomplishing your goals and living each day as if it were your last as Landon helps Jamie live her life to the fullest.