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The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
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The Spectacular Now

by Tim Tharp

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3.5 Stars

This is going to be one of those books that is totally subjective for everyone. Some people will absolutely love it, and some people will get to the end and think "WTF did I just read?" I fall somewhere in between the two.

Honestly, from the first page I was fully on board with Sutter Keely and watched his story unfold with a dreamy little smile on my face. He was abso-freaking-lutely adorable and I was rooting for him so hard. He made me laugh over and over again and I caught glimpses of his heart that made me get a little teary. But while he was charming, he was also pitiful. See, Sutter is the classic party boy who everyone loves to be around at a kegger, but when it comes to real life and the moments when he really needs to step up and be there for the people he cares about, he frequently lets them down... and he knows it. He is resigned to it.

After a disastrous dinner party at his older sister's house, where he accidentally sets her rich husband's $1000 suit on fire while smoking a joint in their closet, he drives down the street shouting out the window "Why don't nobody love me! I got a nice car. I got a big dick. Why don't nobody love me?" (which is related to a funny story he's telling in his head) and the next thing he knows he's waking up on the ground in a strange yard with a teenage girl staring down at him. It's Aimee, the papergirl. She agrees to help him find his car and in return he helps her finish her paper route.

And thus begins, the most unlikely of relationships.

"I have the feeling that I could say anything to Aimee and she wouldn't judge me. Her voice would remain cool and soft, like a pillow to lay your head on after a hard day. She's cute, too, in a nerdy sort of way... she has a way about her that makes me want to do something for her. Not to her. For her."

Sandwiched between heart-strumming prose and laugh-out-loud moments, the friendship between Sutter and Aimee progressed into a relationship, and I watched it all with both bemusement and discomfort. I loved the friendship between the alcoholic party boy and the sweet nerdy girl, who was genuinely a nerd, not a hottie hiding behind glasses. I found it incredibly endearing. But as things progressed into a relationship and I saw Aimee changing, I grew more and more uncomfortable. This book is not a love story. It's a character study of a boy with an addiction and how that addiction affects him and the people in his life. It's the story of a boy who can see all the hurt in the people around him, and he tries to help them, but is unable to help himself.

"Besides it doesn't matter if it's real. It never does with dreams. They aren't anything anyway but lifesavers to cling to so you don't drown. Life is an ocean, and most everyone's hanging on to some kind of dream to keep afloat. Me, I'm just dog-paddling on my own, but Aimee's lifesaver's a beauty. I love it. Anyone would if they could see the way her face beams as she clutches that thing with all her strength."

Sutter is an unreliable narrator, meaning that his view of the world is skewed by his own alcoholism and denial, but throughout the course of the story we are given perspective on what is really happening through the attempted interventions of his friends and the people who love him.

"You're not a bad guy, Sutter. You're a good guy. You just don't have a real firm grasp on the concept of consequences."
He's surrounded by people who really do want the best for him, just like I did, but ultimately only Sutter could make the decision to change. And that's where the sadness came in. The ending was left open and there isn't a lot of resolution. Sutter had no big lightbulb moment that made him cleanup his act. He was at the end much the same as he was at the beginning, and while I loved him and I wanted so much more for him, I was left disappointed. Which is what makes this book so bittersweet. Because we have all probably known a Sutter: people with giant potential who are wasted (literally and figuratively) by their own choices and the cards life hands them. I wanted a spectacular future for him, but the only thing I was promised when I picked up this book was a spectacular now. And I will just have to be content with that.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"I know what Jason has in mind. He's thinking I'm getting ready to peel me a giant grape and taste some sweet, sweet nerd nectar." (When Aimee is wearing this ridiculous giant purple puffy coat)

"When I get to the cafeteria, I can't believe my eyes. There's Aimee standing by the door alone. She waited. She actually waited. This girl is steadfast. She has faith in the Sutterman."

"It's superb to be out in the early, early morning before the sun comes up. There's this sense of being super-alive. You're in on a secret that all the dull, sleeping people don't know about. Unlike them, you're alert and aware of existing right here in this precise moment between what happened and what's going to happen."

( )
  KirSio | Aug 31, 2015 |
Eh, it was okay.

I just didn't care. Sutter was a bit of a jerk, but you could see why, but it never really mattered that you could see why. Amy was just a wet noodle. She just goes from a complete wet noodle to a wet noodle who relies on her boyfriend to fix all her problems. Sutter's friend is also a jerk and his girlfriend Beth is annoying. Sutter's ex-girlfriend Cassidy is probably the best thing about this book and I wish the book had been about her instead of stupid Sutter.

And on and on and on.

There was some nice writing, I guess. But I felt like I'd have been better off rereading The Catcher in the Rye. Holden's also a jerk, you know, but the writing was much better. ( )
  humblewomble | Jul 14, 2015 |
This was a book I bought from the "buy 2 get 1free" table at Barnes and Noble, i found two I wanted easily but finding a third was next to impossible and I settled on this. It is obviously a very quick read about a teenage screwup and drunk who has a unique life perspective. not as predictable as many books in this genre, but not a whole lot of surprises either. ( )
  zmagic69 | Apr 7, 2015 |
Not sure what the point of this book was. A few cute moments but not nearly enough. ( )
  busyreadin | Mar 9, 2015 |
Sutter Keely is the life of the party at his high school: he never really gets into any big trouble, and he's not one to think to hard about consequences before jumping in and loving life. Yeah, maybe he carries a flask of whisky, but he's not an actual drunk. When he and his girlfriend Cassidy break up, his life takes a spin and he suddenly meets Aimee Finecky, who is so not his type.

The book dates itself with references to email and MySpace, but it captures the feeling of high school perfectly which makes it perfect and maddening at the same time. Much like its main character. Though Sutter most assuredly has his problems and is not the most reliable of narrators, I really liked him and rooted for him all the way. ( )
  bell7 | Dec 27, 2014 |
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In the last months of high school, charismatic eighteen-year-old Sutter Keely lives in the present, staying drunk or high most of the time, but that could change when starts working to boost the self-confidence of a classmate, Aimee.

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