The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
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This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture–one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.
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 law, 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.
This book first came to my notice when the movie came to my notice. The movie came to my notice because of the two stars: Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller. Both have been getting a bunch of press lately, for this movie and their other endeavors. Both Shailene and Miles are in the upcoming adaptation of Divergent, and Shailene is also in the adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, so this movie caught my eye quick, especially after it started getting rave reviews. When it first released, it was very limited, as its an indie film, but my boyfriend took me out to Los Angeles to watch it, and it ended up being pretty cool, because one of the screenwriters and one of the producers were there! You can read the full review here.
So now that I’ve seen the movie and really enjoyed it, I knew I would have to sit down and read the book. So while at Barnes and Noble one day, enjoying the magnificent discount that my boyfriend gets now that he works there, I decided to buy it. I’ve been really busy with school and such but I finally finished it and I am ready to talk about it.
I loved it. I loved it being from Sutter’s point of view. The thing about Sutter Keely is that he is a completely messed up person and he has a lot of problems, but he obviously doesn’t seem himself as that way. Every single other person does, I think, besides Aimee, and so it only makes sense to have it from Sutter’s point of view. Any other person’s point of view would have made you dislike Sutter, a lot. But by being in his head, you can see the things that make him so messed up but you feel attached to him as a character because you’re in HIS head. For me, I felt sorry for him, and I wanted to shake him quite a few times, because you know that he sees it, or that he knows something but he just can’t see it.
What Tim Tharp really brings to the table is a real, emotional and raw young adult novel that is written so well and has such a deep story, with such complex problems, that sometimes you forget that these people are kids because they are dealing with so much. Sutter, plain and simple, is an alcoholic and he has serious problems because of this. He dismisses his need to graduate, or commit to a relationship or take anything really seriously, convinced that HE has the right philosophy for life. He is a mess, and you’d like to think this is an over exaggeration but there are plenty of kids out there who get involved with alcohol young and they become alcoholics really young. Its heartbreaking to watch Sutter, as he jokes his way through situations that are inherently sad, and to make mistakes even though the right decision is right in front of his face.
I liked that we got a peek of Aimee but a lot of what is going on in her head is a mystery. You sometimes wonder about Aimee and her motives and her self-confidence. She is a smart, obviously, and I like to believe that no matter how unsatisfactory her home life is, she has a good head on her shoulders. I think she lacks self confidence but I don’t think she’s stupid when it comes to Sutter. I think its interesting that we only get a peek into what is going on with Amy. It makes her an interesting character, one whose reactions I kept waiting for, if only to play the guessing game at what she was really thinking.
I like the story itself as well. The story isn’t like a lot of young adult novels, which showcase an actual conflict and story. This story is all about the internal struggle and growth of Sutter Keely in this particular part of his life, where a plan that he had didn’t exactly go according to plan. We watch as Sutter Keely takes on Aimee as a project of his, to save her from herself, but what he ends up learning about his friends, his family and himself along the way is a surprise, to both us and himself. The end is one of those open ended, discussion worthy endings where you’re not quite sure what happened, or what could happen and I think that was the best part of the novel. You could have a happy ending, but would that feel too not genuine or too forced? You could have a sad ending, but would it be a sad ending just for the sake of being a sad ending? I like that it could go either way, and you’re left wondering what did happen next, and I’m glad I don’t know. There are so many guesses, both positive and negative but they are all just guesses, and I love the ambiguity of the ending.
4 out of 5 Stars
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