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Review: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

So, my girlfriend, Cassidy, is threatening to kick me to the curb again, my best friend suddenly wants to put the brakes on our lives of fabulous fun, my mom and big sister are plotting a future in which I turn into an atomic vampire, and my dad, well, my dad is a big fat question mark that I’m not sure I want the answer to. 

Some people would let a senior year like this get them down. Not me. I’m Sutter Keely, master of the party. But don’t mistake a midnight philosopher like me for nothing more than a shallow party boy. Just ask Aimee, the new girl in my life. She saw the depth in the Sutterman from the first moment when she found me passed out on the front lawn. Okay, so she’s a social disaster, but that’s where I come in. 

Yes, life is weird, but I embrace the weird. Let everyone else go marching off into their great shining futures if they want. Me, I’ve always been more than content to tip my whisky bottle and take a ride straight into the heart of the spectacular now. 

One of the most hopefully disappointing stories I have ever read, The Spectacular Now is an embodiment of a life where we hope for something better that never comes, or have high expectations of things or people in “the now” or the present, only to be constantly let down. Then there are the lives that do not hope or dream, but rather sit and wait for “the spectacular” or the better to get here, forever waiting. However, still an interesting read. 

The Spectacular Now points out the flaws in Sutter Keely, a fun-having, pseudo-philosophical, might-be-an-alcoholic type of guy who lives only for “the spectacular now,” he is the “hero,” or rather, anti-hero of our story. Sutter is truly the life of the party and everyone loves hanging out with him. Until one day his girlfriend, Cassidy, tells him something very important he must do before she breaks up with him and Sutter doesn’t quite get it. Next thing he knows, Cassidy is dumping him because he didn’t consider her feelings before his, which is what she wanted him to do. 

Now “the now” isn’t looking so spectacular but no worries for “the Sutterman,” as he refers to himself, he will wow it up with some whisky in a 7up cup. And whisky always seems to solve the problems but still doesn’t dull the hurt Cassidy put on him (even though he won’t admit it). So Ricky, his best friend, gives him a joint to ease his troubles.  Of course, this doesn’t ease his problems but adds to them. While at a dinner party with his sister, Holly and her husband Kevin (pronounced Keevin), Sutter blazes up and sets one of Kevin’s suits on fire (merely light scorching really) and decides to leave the party, joy riding around town all night, buzzed and high, until he crashes his car. 

When Sutter comes back to the land of consciousness, he is lying in a yard not his own and he can’t remember where his car is. Not only that, but he is face to face with this mousy girl who is holding a bag of newspaper. The girl is Aimee Finecky and she is the most shy, most quiet, and most push-over of a girl he has ever met. 

Aimee fills him in that she is throwing a paper route for her mother while said mother and boyfriend on disability (which is just fat and laziness) go out to the Indian casinos all night. Now Sutter can see where Aimee’s nature comes from, being a doormat in her own home. Sutter takes it upon himself to save this girl and rescue her from her lame life and introduce her to “the spectacular now.” Sutter wants to get Aimee to stand up for herself and stand up to her mother and “Randy-the-Walrus” boyfriend and encourages her to follow her dream of moving to St. Louis with her sister and working for NASA. 

However things don’t go as Sutter plans. First of all, he gets Aimee drinking and whether he will realize it or not, she is turning into a lush like him. But more importantly, he begins dating her, which is the one thing he said he wouldn’t do and the girl has love written all over her face. At least Aimee is starting to stand up for herself more, which is a good thing but Sutter can only hope Aimee gets tired of him before he has to break up with her and ultimately break her heart. 

The Spectacular Now is a disappointing novel as we watch this fun-loving, fake philosopher, alcoholic yet all around good guy Sutter try to live in “the spectacular now,” only to discover that in reality, he is running from the past, present and future; diluting every moment with whisky to escape the unpleasantness of his life. However, The Spectacular Now also hones in on people’s need for something “more.” Where more isn’t some grand fantasy of “the spectacular now,” but more is a future, some reality and not always fighting the lulls of life, yet going along with them, enjoying them even. As if people have learned to turn every day moments into their own kind of “spectacular.” 

I know all that I’ve said wasn’t very kind but I still think it’s a book worth reading. I mean, this novel did make me hope things were going to turn out for the better. That has to count for something. Who knows, maybe Sutter was on to something and maybe when you read The Spectacular Now, you will reach “the spectacular now.”

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes 

Book Information
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 7/9/2013
Pages: 304

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