In Beaufort, North Carolina, a prank on a student goes terribly wrong and puts the student in the hospital. Landon Carter, a popular student with no defined plans for the future, is held responsible and forced to participate in after-school community service activities as punishment, which include starring as the lead in the school play. Also participating in these activities is Jamie Sullivan, the reverend's daughter who has great ambitions and nothing in common with Landon. When Landon decides he wants to take his activities seriously, he asks Jamie for help and begins to spend most of his time with her. But he starts to develop strong feelings for her, something he did not expect to do. The two start a relationship, much to the chagrin of Landon's old popular friends and Jamie's strict reverend father. But when a heart-breaking secret becomes known that puts their relationship to the test, it is then that Landon and Jamie realize the true meaning of love and fate.