SBR: I picked up this book because I watched the movie and then wondered if the book was less sappy and contrived. The book is definitely more gritty with its characters and situations, but I am afraid it turned out to be even more sappy and contrived than the movie. Despite some inconsistencies in the movie, this is one of those cases where movie is better for the changes it has made.
To read or not to read: Watch the feel-good movie, if you are into those. Skip the book.