REVIEW: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

 Tim Tharp


DATE PUBLISHED:November 1, 2008

RATING: 4-5-star-rating-md

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads): 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.


WARNING: This post contains spoilers (because it’s hard to pour my heartfelt thoughts out without spilling something from the book).

The Sutterman is my man! This coming-of-age story of Sutter Keely is by far, the most realistic one I could ever scrape from my memory.

Let me start by saying how much I adored Tim Tharp after reading The Spectacular Now. Needless to say, he had a brilliant mind for crafting such a simple story but ultimately unique in its own ways. He has this writing prowess that could transport you to the actual scene of the story, feel the objects mentioned as though they’re tangible, and be one with the characters as if you’re physically with them.

There were several lines from the book that certainly hit home. What perspective the narrator on the story has is a reflection of the author’s philosophy. In this case, I can hear Tharp’s voice louder than than the main character. His viewpoint may appear shallow but in a thorough comprehension, its roots end in abyss one cannot picture.

Besides, it doesn’t matter if it’s real. It never does with dreams. They aren’t anything anyway but lifesavers to cling to so you don’t drown. Life is an ocean, and most everyone’s hanging on to some kind of dream to keep afloat.

The characters exhibit diversity. I’m talking about representation of different lives instead of racial diversity here. Although I have to say, there were stereotypical notions masking each persona. Aimee is your regular nerd, socially awkward and a fashion disaster. Marcus is the perfect rebound guy, someone who wanted to salvation for the world. I like how fat Cassidy is beheld as someone glorious and – in Sutter lingo – sponktacular. Literature doesn’t always regard extra layers of adipose tissue as gorgeous.

Sutter Keely is not your typical main character. He lives in the now and lives by the mantra, “embrace the weird” His character plays on both sides of the spectrum e.g. he’s selfish and generous, he’s slaphappy and cautious, he’s a darling and he’s not. I think he’s intentionally painted as such to create an almost perfect epitome of this generation’s youth, a classic representation of human’s vulnerability.

As I mentioned paragraphs ago, this for me has the most realistic plot and themes. Let’s lay out the facts.

1. Metamorphosing from the bad side to the good is almost an impossibility. Oftentimes, we land on the gray area.

After his failed relationship with Cassidy, we thought Sutter learned his lessons. At least in literature, I’m guessing that’s how it often goes. But no. He went to date Aimee committing the same mistake of not believing in a lasting relationship, thinking that the ‘now’ is more important than the ‘next’. However, throughout the relationship, he learned how to mind others and not to be egotistical which ironically, led him to cutting off his relationship with Amy.

2. People come and go because life happens fast.

Sutter was friends with Ricky all his life but one girlfriend later, his relationship was as good as getting severed. After their graduation, people started moving on. Gone are the parties, the Italian mobsters, the good ole juvenile times. All because reality set in. This created in me a sense of nostalgia remembering how my tight-knit group in high school was dissolved the moment adulthood kicked in. I feel like dedicating a separate post for this. So much feeeeeels.

We’re not the Faster-than-the-Speed-of-Light Generation anymore. We’re not even the Next-New-Thing Generation. We’re the Soon-to-Be-Obsolete Kids, and we’ve crowded in here to hide from the future and the past. We know what’s up – the future looms straight ahead like a black wrought-iron gate and the past is charging after us like a badass Doberman, only this one doesn’t have any letup in him.

3. Not everyone gets the chance to live the American dream.

The Keelies didn’t live in a house with white picket fences, perfectly mowed evergreen lawn, or a fancy swimming pool. Their misery in life wasn’t exaggerated either. I totally have nothing against people on this caste. It’s just that, a significant amount of the population in the social pyramid live the same life as the Keelies.

4. Humans are comprised of multi-layers of emotions.

Beneath the vibrant mask of the master of the party, Sutter, lay layers and layers of wound and pain. He doesn’t take life very seriously not because he wanted to look cool (don’t we all?) – or maybe that’s party a reason – but more because he has to run away from its ghosts.

5. Sometimes, even books don’t get their fairy tale endings.

If you’ve reached this part but you haven’t read the books, my apologies but you were forewarned. Some say the ending was uncalled for but for me it couldn’t end in any way better. How the loose ends were tied and how there were small loopholes left behind were so on point because in reality, there’s no way to knot life intricacies perfectly.

Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now

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    Okay like at first I was like “:O :O” at the ending. I NEEDS A GOOD ENDING. But the more I reflected back on it, the more it fit in with the story and how damn realistic it was. Because real life is fucking like that. You don’t know how crap turns out, and it’s usually not for the best (although I liked the movie ending better just because it was happier lol). Anyway, this story just latched onto my soul and didn’t let go. The characters are just EVERYTHING – even their trope-like characteristics. Because despite being so different from me, I could also see myself in them. So yeah. Review on-point 😀


    • RIGHT??? Sutter is the average guy undergoing the same – if not, close to – crappy life as we/I do. It’s just so hard not to empathize with this man. I love that Tim Tharp didn’t sugarcoat any part of the story and didn’t end it in the usual way as Sutter becoming the complete opposite of the mess he was in the beginning. But yeah, I heard this was one of those where you love the movie even though they tweaked a lot of it from the original. I am watching that soon especially because Miles Stellar is ❤ Thank you, Aila! 😀


  2. I actually watched the movie, and I haven’t read the book. The movie was eh, so I wasn’t planning on reading the book, but after hearing how realistic it is…it honestly sounds really good! I’m looking for another Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower-ish book, that’ll speak to me and resonate with me, and The Spectacular Now sounds like it’ll be perfect for that! Thanks for sharing, Trisha!! ❤


    • Whoa, really?! I heard a lot of positive feedback about the movie (I haven’t watched it yet). Well I guess it wasn’t for everybody. It is sort of Perks of Being a Wallflower with all sorts of stereotypes and life issues strewn all over. I hope you’ll love it, Geraldine! 😀


    • I haven’t watched the movie yet. Surprisingly, others who both watched and read the book said the movie didn’t fall short to the original story. I hope you’ll love The Spectacular Now as much as I did, Anikka 🙂


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