Saturday, December 6, 2014
Book Review: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
Author: Tim Tharp
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: lots of swearing, sex, underage drug and (pervasive) alcohol use (including lots and lots of drunk driving)
Sutter Keely is the kind of guy I watched from a distance in high school. He's the life of every party. He has a huge heart. He's also trouble with a capital T. The opening scene of the novel pretty much sums up his character-- Sutter is supposed to be driving to his girlfriend's house to take her to get her hair cut, but instead he's nursing a 7Up spiked with vodka while driving around Oklahoma City, skipping school on a beautiful late winter day, when he spots a small boy all alone. Sutter finds that the boy is running away from home (and not sure exactly where he lives), and the two spend the next hour finding his house, where Sutter gets bawled out by the boy's mother, and then gets bawled out by his girlfriend for missing the appointment. He doesn't have much of anything together, and he has a serious drinking problem.
When the girlfriend dumps Sutter's sorry self, he starts hanging out with Aimee, who is smart, but nerdy, and totally clueless. She's spent most of her high school years delivering a paper route for her mother, and her stepfather and brother boss her around regularly. A normal YA novel would probably have Sutter clean up his act as a result of hanging out with Aimee, while Aimee would gain some social skills and a backbone. But that's not what happens. What does happen instead is more realistic and messy, and definitely worth reading to find out. I love that Tharp is working with ambiguity and complicated characters in this novel, and I'm now eager to watch the screen adaptation of The Spectacular Now (starring Shailene Woodley as Aimee and Miles Teller as Sutter).