Where was Tim Tharp as I sat in creative writing class being torn apart by my contemporaries and professor for creating a unlovable character and throwing him into an adventure where he doesn’t learn a lesson? Sure, Sutter Keely might come off as your typical, everyday high school party goer. And sure, he might seem charming. And sure he might get the gist of knowing he has to grow up, but in The Spectacular Now I’m left wondering if he will ever get his head straight and start thinking about something other than the now.
Do not mistake charming for lovable. Sutter Keely will steal your heart and make you smile throughout the book with his misguided, quasi-jaded philosophy that puts Holden Caulfield to shame. There is no denying, however, that Sutter is a teenage alcoholic bound to grow up into an adult alcoholic. He’s disappointed with people who don’t embrace his idea of fun and living life. Still, you read through the book with the understanding that this is a coming of age novel. That Sutter will eventually have to grow up. And after seeing what’s in store for his future, watching his friends growing up around him, the reader expects an epiphany, a change. Screw up after screw up, mishap after mishap, trouble after trouble
Tim Tharp, however, doesn’t deliver that to the reader. The Hollywood ending doesn’t do Sutter justice because it’s just a manipulation of the atomic vampires in charge. And while I can’t help but to admire that this book just proved my creative writing class wrong, I still feel cheated.
Even through all the good of the book, the lackluster ending where the narrator learns absolutely nothing even though reflections of his future cheer him on, stare him in the face, ditch him constantly, he keeps on trucking as God’s own drunk. Romanticizing his dead-beat father until he becomes a carbon copy image of the bastard. The only lessons he learns he quickly forgets with his big 7Up and whisky.
Still the amazing ability of getting into his main character’s psyche proves that Tim Tharp is a writer that will get young adults to sit down and read. There isn’t a boring moment within the pages. And the information is delivered without the fluff that makes most books tedious to read at that age. The sort of writer that I yearned for growing up.
So if you’re willing to go along from the drunken ride and test your sobriety, it’s time you curled up with Tim Tharp’s novel.About the book (from Amazon.com):
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 lawn, 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.The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Ember, 9 July 2013 (movie tie-in cover)