The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp

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Guess what?! I finished The Spectacular Now two days ago. This is the first time I’ve written about a book I didn’t read weeks earlier in a while. Which means it’s all fresh in my mind! Wahoo!

I bought this book because I wanted to watch the movie (just like Perks of Being a Wallflower). I ended up seeing the movie before I read the book. Which kind of defeated the point of buying the book, but whatever. I watched it with my best friends and their mom one Saturday night, and I actually have to say I liked the movie better than the book. It had a more specific ending, you have some idea of what happens to Sutter and Aimee in the future. Well, it’s easier to imagine one. The book just leaves you hanging, with Sutter walking off into the sunset basically. In the movie he gets sober, figures out the rest of his life, and goes to Aimee’s college to fix things. At least in this ending, you can imagine that they make things right and end up together. Maybe just because I don’t have a huge imagination myself, but I really don’t like when books/movies end without a semi-specific if not very specific ending.

Okay, so this was a little like Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was an interesting book, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to because it hit too close to home for me. Not that I or anyone I know has lived through what Sutter and Aimee dealt with (as far as I know) but the point is they could. My next door neighbour could be dealing with a stepfather they hate and a mother they think hates them and an alcohol addiction and an ex-girlfriend they are still in love with and a girlfriend they are taking down a destructive path. My next door neighbours happen to be married, fully grown adults, but that’s not really the point. The situation, the story, it was much too real. I read books to escape, to find new worlds. Or at least a happier version of this one. So I guess it scares me to read stories like The Spectacular Now and know that it could happen to anyone I know. It could happen to me. Or you.

I did enjoy Sutter’s character, which seems contradictory to everything I said above. But hear me out. His outlook on life is quite relaxed, he takes the punches as they come. He’s a hit at every party, the ladies love him, and he always finds a way to have a great time. But he doesn’t take anything seriously, including himself. Sutter lives in the now, the spectacular now, and refuses to look forward or back.

He takes Aimee on as a friend, with the goal of increasing her self confidence. She was meant to be his charity project, essentially, but he ends up falling in love with her. They end up in this weird relationship where Sutter knows he can’t stay with Aimee but he really loves her. And Aimee really loves Sutter, but she is too willing to sacrifice herself and her dreams for him. He wants her to be stronger, less passive, and she wants him to be more ambitious, less Sutter-like. What I really love about Sutter is that in the end he does what he needs to do for Aimee. After Aimee asks Sutter to go away to college with her, and Aimee almost gets killed on the highway after they get in a fight while driving, Sutter knows he has to let Aimee go. He has done his job, she has come into her own as a young woman and is ready to move on, though she may not know it yet. Sutter knows that for Aimee to grow, accomplish her goals, and see her dreams come true, he must allow her the freedom to explore. It breaks his heart, though he wouldn’t tell anyone if they asked, but he ends it. Because he loves her, he has to hurt her. And I very much respect the sacrifice he made.

“See, I do have a future to give her after all, just not one that includes me.” -Sutter on giving Aimee up for her own sake.

I know I just spent several paragraphs on how much I love Sutter, but I also hated him a little as well. He drinks far too much, he sleeps with his ex while leading Aimee on, flirts with his ex while dating Aimee, routinely hurts Aimee (though she continually forgives him, so that’s her fault for putting up with it), and is just generally a scummy guy. I spent a large portion of the time I spent reading debating over my feelings for Sutter until I realized that he does not have to be a good guy or a bad guy. He’s just a guy. That’s part of life, and especially part of growing up. You’re not finished growing at seventeen, nor do you have everything figured out. And that’s okay, because there is so much ahead. If Sutter changes and grows, excellent. If not, that’s okay. Because not everyone in the world is going to be a great person. That’s what makes great people great. If everyone was great, no one would be. (I wrote great a lot there. As I was reading this it stopped sounding like a word because I read it too many times, but I think that phenomenon is really interesting so I’m just going to leave it.) This is part of what makes the book so realistic for me, it’s a very accurate representation of the situation.

I also enjoyed watching Aimee grow from an insecure, passive, shy girl to a blossoming young woman who is capable of expressing her feelings and communicating her desires to people she previously bowed to. Also, she is a total nerd, so that’s fun. Aimee is also one of those “beautiful but doesn’t know it” girls, and they are my favourite kind. Modest, kind, caring, gorgeous, and yet unaware of the effect she has on people. Even when the guys around her are floored by her beauty, flirting up a storm, she remains all but oblivious, and I find that quite wonderful. Spectacular even. (See what I did there? I really entertain myself.)

Anyway, I’m probably going to pawn this one off to my little sister. Which means she’ll start reading it, lose interest, and then I’ll find it abandoned in the family room somewhere. I’ll then pick it up, put it in her room, she’ll find it and give it back to me, I’ll put it back in my bookcase, and then keep it in mind for when I donate books next time. It’s the circle of hand-me-downs.

If you have any thoughts on either the book or the movie, let me know! Now that I’m all caught up, I won’t see you until the end of my next book. So until then, keep reading!

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