Rated Reads

The Spectacular Now

by Tim Tharp

Rated: High

I want to start this with the statement: “Sutter Keely is an alcoholic.” Because by saying he’s the “life of the party” (which is true) or “running away from his problems” (which is also true) seems to minimize the gravity of the problem. Sutter drinks — whisky, mostly — all. the. time. He can’t function without alcohol in his system. And it’s going to be his downfall.

Or, at least at the start of the book, that’s what you think. His “beautiful fat” girlfriend, Cassidy, breaks up with him (no surprise; Sutter can’t keep a girlfriend) and he wakes up with a hangover on some girl’s — Aimee’s, as it turns out — front lawn. Here’s his chance at redemption: he’s going to take this socially awkward girl under his wing and reform her.

Except he doesn’t. Sure, he shows her acceptance and she shows him love, but in the end there is no Defining Moment (though Tharp comes close a couple of times), no Growth, no, well, nothing. And in the moment of reading, I was royally ticked off at that. I don’t care if I don’t like a character (Sutter bordered on destructive, and my mom instincts — yes, they are kind of like a Spidey-sense — kicked in); I want there to be some sort of growth arc, some sort of conflict and resolution. But Sutter was his own conflict, and there was no resolution. Sitting back after a couple of days, I can see how the lack of a firm resolution fits Sutter’s character: he’s all Live In The Now, which I thought was very Dude of him at first, but after a while it just seemed a pathetic excuse not to do anything. There’s no growth arc because Sutter is beyond growing, and it’s not just because he lives in the now and embraces the weird. It’s not deep, though, it’s just lame.

And Aimee? While I’m not sure I wanted her to be Strong and Rescue Sutter, I did want something more from her than to roll over (literally sometimes) and let Sutter have his way. Perhaps it’s because she’s emotionally abused, perhaps it’s because she’s shy, but she is beyond pathetic as a character. And that’s just sad.

So I’m not quite sure what to think of this one. It had the potential to be brilliant but only ended up as kind of meh.

Rated: High for language, teenage drinking (a lot), and sex.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

One Response to The Spectacular Now

  1. Nancy says:

    Agreed… the book could have gone somewhere, but it didn’t. I wanted to like Sutter. I wanted him to realize how crappy he was and work on it. I wanted him to not drag Aimee down with him. I was highly disappointed in it. I kept reading figuring this had to be a coming of age story and it would get better. Mad that I even stuck around to finish it.

  • The Spectacular Now
  • by Tim Tharp
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: