The Spectacular Now
By Tim Tharp
Published 2008 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Life is a party for Sutter Keely. Why would he ever want anything different? But one day, after partying too hard, he wakes up on Aimee's lawn. It's clear Aimee needs Sutter's help, but will he take on more than he can handle?
I'm one of those people who really likes to read the book before she sees the movie, though I will also still read a book after I've seen the movie version of it. That desire is what prompted me to pick up this book in the fall. I've also heard a lot of good things about it, so I wanted to check it out for myself.
I had a really hard time with this book. On the one hand, it's not difficult for me to see why it gets a lot of praise and has a lot of teen appeal. On the other hand, I did not enjoy it at all.
Sutter reminded me of Tim Riggins from the Friday Night Lights TV series, my least favorite character on the show. I have a really hard time with characters like these two - cocky, good-looking guys who drink too much but rarely get in trouble for it and who have no ambition to do something more with their life. Maybe it's just too far outside my personal realm of understanding, maybe I just find it too difficult to believe that guys like this legitimately exist. I mean, of course, logically, I know they do, but maybe I don't WANT to believe they do. But I really struggle to care about characters that I perceive as having no personal growth from the start of something to the end - and that's how I felt about Sutter.
However, on the other hand, I can easily see the argument that Sutter DOES actually help Aimee - would she have ever found the courage to stand up to her mom and go after the life she wants if she hadn't met Sutter? I doubt it. At the same time, though, how much hurt did Sutter inflict on her by acting the way he did? I don't think Aimee is set up for a lifetime of healthy relationships from this point on.
As much as I personally did not like the ending, it felt very realistic for the characters and the story. And, for me, the most heartbreaking scene comes between Sutter and his boss, when his boss asks him to promise to never drink at work or show up drunk again. Sutter can't make that promise and I really felt awful about that.
Like I said, I'm basically of two minds when it comes to this book, but on a personal level, definitely not one of my favorites.