Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1-1-08
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Sutter Keely. He’s the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.
Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.
Maybe it’s just me? I was totally expecting to go into this book and just love it. And at first I did really like it…but then my opinions quickly changed.
In the beginning, I found Sutter Keely to be funny and interesting. But as the book continued, I began to get fed up with his antics. It’s starting to seem like these kind of quirky characters that I loved in books like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower are just being regurgitated over and over again by authors who are sadly failing to create the same kind of realistic originality in an effort to follow the current trend. Over time, Sutter became stale and static. I guess his character was realistic in how much he didn’t change from the first page until the last one…but why do I want to read about a character who undergoes no emotional growth? I don’t.
Sutter was occasionally entertaining to read about, but mostly it was just sad. He isn’t always nice, and he’s kind of screwed up. But that’s the thing — Tharp tries to create this unimaginative backstory about why Sutter is the way he is, but I couldn’t relate. It just sounded like he was complaining all of the time, and yeah, whatever, his life sort of sucks. But everybody has problems! And we don’t all act pathetic and whiny like Sutter does. Maybe it’s because I’m not exactly the intended audience (perhaps teenagers could relate more to his life?), but all he was to me was annoying and immature.
Tim Tharp does get points for the ending, though. I found it aggravating, but sort of in a good way. I liked that kind of realism. Not everything ends the way you expect it to. The relationship between Sutter and Aimee progresses the way it might’ve in real life. Maybe it’s not satisfying, but it’s real, and I can appreciate that.
Speaking of which…Aimee is the shining star in this novel, and is really the only reason I wanted to keep reading. Aimee is totally unique, and I thought it was interesting to watch Sutter grow increasingly more and more attached to her. She was so weird and intriguing. I felt bad for her, but also admired her. I loved watching her emerge from this sad shell into who Sutter made her into — an independent girl who could actually stand up for herself. I thought the dynamic between Aimee and Sutter was interesting as well. Even though I didn’t always like how he treated her, it was grating and sad in how realistic it was. He changed her for the better, yes…but he also did some damage. Which is pretty much an accurate representation of all relationships.
The more I think about it, the more I really can appreciate this novel for what it was. But I don’t always want to read something that’s quite so realistic. It’s great writing, but I wouldn’t say that I liked it or enjoyed reading it. I guess it was a good experience, but I’m not sure that it was anything more than that, really.