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The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now

3.4 92
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 (star of The Fault in our Stars and Divergent) and Miles Teller (star of Whiplash).

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone


This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture -- one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley (star of The Fault in our Stars and Divergent) and Miles Teller (star of Whiplash).

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 17, 2008:
"[A] smart, superbly written novel."

Starred Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2009:
"A sobering look at the rationalizations of a teenage alcoholic."

Publishers Weekly

Unlike most high school seniors, Sutter Keely-the narrator of this smart, superbly written novel-is not concerned with the future. He's the life of the party, and he's interested in the "Spectacular Now." In stream of consciousness-style prose, Sutter describes his lurching from one good time to the next: he carries whiskey in a flask, and once it's mixed into his 7Up, anything is possible. He will jump into the pool fully clothed, climb up a tree and onto his ex-girlfriend's roof or cruise around all hours of the night. Without ever deviating from the voice of the egocentric Sutter, Tharp (Knights of the Hill Country) fully develops all of the ancillary characters, such as socially awkward Aimee, the new girlfriend who tries to plan a future with this quintessential live-for-the-moment guy. Readers will be simultaneously charmed and infuriated by Sutter as his voice holds them in thrall to his all-powerful Now. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)

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Children's Literature - Quinby Frank
Sutter Keely spends his days in an alcoholic daze, taking sips from his constant companion—a large bottle of 7-Up fortified with whiskey. He is a senior in high school and most of his friends are making post-graduation plans, but not Sutter. He just lives in the "spectacular now." He has lost a collection of girlfriends since middle school, because he cannot take anything seriously. He is the class clown, always joking his way out of trouble. He has befriended a local unpopular girl, Aimee Finicky, as a sort of charity case, but then things begin to get serious and he finds himself in way over his head as his alcohol consumption leads him to do crazier and crazier things. Sutter has an irreverent "in your face" appeal. He is clearly vulnerable and insecure, with a feeling of abandonment because his father left the family when he was a young child. The reader feels sympathy for him in spite of his drinking and irresponsible behavior. He is a flawed hero searching for himself and making poor choices, but he has a heart of gold. The sad irony is that he is quite perceptive about other people but totally self-deluded about his own problems. An attempt to find his long lost father ends in disaster, and Sutter's life spirals rapidly downhill. A cautionary tale with a sad but predictable ending. Reviewer: Quinby Frank
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Filtered through the whiskey-soaked perceptions of high school senior Sutter Keely, Tim Tharp's quirky novel (Knopf, 2008) echoes the tragic-comic struggles typical of many students launching themselves into the maelstrom of the adult world. Part witty party boy and would-be Lothario, Sutter walks a tightrope of avoidance, love, compassion, and resistance to the whole grown-up thing. Life would be so much simpler if everyone understood both his desire to help those in need and his aesthetic appreciation of the intangible beauties to be observed in the "spectacular now." Part comedy and part poignant saga, MacLeod Andrews delivers a knife-edge performance, full of jaunty insouciance and touching despair, liberally soused with the teen's ever-present, whiskey-laden bon mots. Sutter's adventures and alcoholic slide take place mostly on a road to nowhere. Along the way, he loses his girlfriend and alienates his sister and brother-in-law by nearly setting their house on fire; but he also sets up his best friend with his first girlfriend, and aims to boost his new girlfriend Aimee's self-esteem with his sincere and flamboyant attention. Andrews's portrayal is perfectly nuanced, and listeners will be entranced, even as they wince at the zany perambulations of a young man who has lost his way, all the while helping friends and strangers with his keen insights and goofy charm. Sutter is a more charming, less alienated Holden Caulfield, trenchantly in thrall to the "Bright Lights, Big City" of his alcohol-infused imagination.—Roxanne Spencer, Western Kentucky University Libraries, Bowling Green

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)
HL790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
So, it's a little before ten a.m. and I'm just starting to get a good buzz going. Theoretically, I should be in Algebra II, but in reality I'm cruising over to my beautiful fat girlfriend Cassidy's house. She ditched school to get her hair cut and needs a ride because her parents confiscated her car keys. Which I guess is a little ironic considering that they're punishing her for ditching school with me last week.

Anyway, I have this sweet February morning stretching out in front of me, and I'm like, Who needs algebra? So what if I'm supposed to be trying to boost the old grades up before I graduate in May? I'm not one of these kids who's had their college plans set in stone since they were about five. I don't even know when the application deadlines are. Besides, it's not like my education is some kind of priority with my parents. They quit keeping track of my future when they divorced, and that was back in the Precambrian Era. The way I figure it, the community college will always take me. And who says I need college anyway? What's the point?

Beauty's all around me right here. It's not in a textbook. It's not in an equation. I mean, take the sunlight--warm but not too brash. It's not like winter at all. Neither was January or December for that matter. It's amazing--we couldn't have had more than one cold week all winter. Listen, global warming's no lie. Take last summer. You want to talk about getting a beating from the heat. Last summer was a hardcore pugilist. I mean, burn-you-down-to-the-roots-of-your-hair hot. It's like Cassidy says--global warming's not for lightweights.

But with this February sun, see, the light's absolutely pure and makes the colors of the sky and the tree limbs and the bricks on these suburban houses so clean that just looking at them is like inhaling purified air. The colors flow into your lungs, into your bloodstream. You are the colors.

I prefer drinking my whisky mixed, so I pull into a convenience store for a big 7UP, and there's this kid standing out front by the pay phone. A very real-looking kid, probably only about six years old--just wearing a hoodie and jeans, his hair sticking out every which way. Not one of these styling little kids you see in their brand-name outfits and their TV show haircuts, like they're some kind of miniature cock daddy. Of course, they wouldn't know what to do with a girl if she came in a box with the instructions on the lid like Operation or Monopoly, but they have the act down.

Right away, I take to this kid, so I say, "Hey, dude, aren't you supposed to be in school or something?" and he's like, "Can I borrow a dollar?"

I go, "What do you need with a dollar, little man?"

And he's, "I'm going to buy a candy bar for breakfast."

Now that gets my attention. A candy bar for breakfast? My heart goes out to this kid. I offer to buy him a breakfast burrito, and he's okay with that as long as he gets his candy bar too. When we come back out, I look around to size up what kind of traffic the kid's going to have to negotiate in his travels. We live just south of Oklahoma City--technically it's a whole different city, but with the urban sprawl you can't tell where one leaves off and the other begins--so we have a lot of traffic zipping around here.

"Look," I tell him as he drips egg down the front of himself. "This is a pretty busy intersection. How about I give you a ride to wherever you're going so some big rig doesn't barrel down and flatten you like a squirrel."

He looks me over, sizing me up just like a squirrel might actually do right before deciding to scamper off into his lair. But I'm a trustworthy-looking guy. I have no style either--just a pair of reasonably old jeans, beat-up sneakers, and a green long-sleeve T-shirt that says Ole! on the front. My brown hair's too short to need much combing, and I have a little gap between my two front teeth, which gives me a friendly, good-hearted look, or so I'm told. The point is I'm a long way from scary.
So the kid takes a chance and hops into the passenger side of my Mitsubishi Lancer. I've had it for about a year--it's silver with a black interior, not new or anything but pretty awesome in a basic kind of way.

"My name's Sutter Keely," I say. "What's yours?"

"Walter," he says around a mouthful of burrito.

Walter. That's good. I've never known a little kid named Walter. It seems like an old man's name, but I guess you have to start somewhere.

"Now, Walter," I say, "the first thing I want you to know is you shouldn't really take rides from strangers."

"I know," he says. "Mrs. Peckinpaugh taught us all about that at Stranger Danger."

"That's good," I say. "You should keep that in mind in the future."

And he goes, "Yeah, but how do you know who's a stranger?"

That cracks me up. How do you know who's a stranger? That's a kid for you. He can't comprehend that people might be dangerous just because you haven't met them yet. He's probably got all sorts of sinister ideas about what a stranger is--a black, slouchy hat and raincoat, a scar on the cheek, long fingernails, shark teeth. But think about it--when you're six years old, you haven't met all that many people. It would be pretty mind-_boggling to go around suspicious of ninety-nine percent of the populace.

I start to explain the stranger thing to him, but his attention span isn't all that long and he gets sidetracked watching me pour whisky into my big 7UP.

"What's that?" he asks.

I tell him it's Seagram's V.O., so then he wants to know why I'm pouring it in my drink.
I look at him and he has this authentic interest in his big, round eyes. He really wants to know. What am I going to do, lie to him?

Meet the Author

Tim Tharp lives in Oklahoma, where he teaches at Rose State College. He is also the author of the YA novel Knights of the Hill Country, an ALA–YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. He lives in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

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The Spectacular Now (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So far from what I have read in the comments most people have said that the ending is bad and has no answers, but isn't that the point of the book. There are no real answers in life, but to live in the now. If you spend to much time thinking about the future you won't see the real beauty in living. IF YOU HAVE READ THROUGH ALL OF THIS CONGRATS AND REMEMBER THESE ARE MY OPINIONS SO IT IS NOT REQUIRED YOU TAKE THIS TO HEART AND START JUDGING THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS.
mkmtt More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I mean im only fourteen...considering. Regardless, the book just completely entertained me, it was too funny. I think Sutter is my new favourite character, and Ive decided I will too, embrace the weird. Worth your money!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly, this book was amazing! Sure the ending wasn't great but it was realistic! You don't need sutter or anyone to have character developement because in real life, sometimes people don't change! This book was real and truly amazing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I watched the trailer before reading this book and was really pumped. Apparently the movie will be very different from the book.. i feel like the character was a fun guy, yeah, but it all got a bit annoying after a while. The ending mad me want to scream at the author. But i read this book in one sitting, so i guess that shows it was still pretty addicting and a good read nevertheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the beginning of this book I was hopeful for Sutter, and he is a very likeable character but as the book continues I realized that the way he describes and sees certain situations isn't always the truth and the way he solves his problems is in a way that benefits only him. Until the very last page of the book I was hoping he would change and start doing and seeing what's right but I finished the book feeling completely unsatisfied. The book ended with the main character just as he was in the beginning and it just felt like a waste of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would have to agree with all of the people below about the ending but i just have a few things to add. When i finished reading this book i was insanely upset with the ending. But when i got past that and looked at the book as a whole i realized that sutter although sadly probably won't change did do something good. If sutter wasn't around then Aimee wouldn't have ever gpne to college and started her life. So sutter might be a bit hated but atleast he effected aomwone's life for the better in the long run. If you goten thus far onto reading this then congrates because most people wouldn't read this long review. This all an opinion and you don't have to agree. I just tjpught i would put it out there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's very different from your normal young adult books , but trust me it is very worth the buy and very worth the time reading:):):)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far my favorite book. I felt the story become a part of me. Mr. Tharp did an exeptional job of capturing what it is truly like feeling love for the first time. I cannot pick apart this narrative because in all honesty, it is absolutely perfect. This novel will make you feel as the characters jump to life right before your eyes. PS. Read the book before watching the movie. There are some strong differences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just watched the ending and oh my holy cheese! I completly broke down. What happens after that. It is so beautiful.... u have no idea unless u've seen it. People who have, am i right or am i right.
Jaska97 More than 1 year ago
Very real, raw. Ending was one to think about but sadly very realistic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It only took me around two days to read it! I really liked it. Cant wait to see the movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book did nothing for me. It was doing good but the ending left me wondering what happened.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was all hyped up to read this book after seeing the trailer for the movie, but I have to say that I am sadly disappointed. There was little to no character development and really no plot. I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one day but I think that was mainly because I was waiting for something to actually happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AMAZING BOOK! Could not put it down. Definitely wouldve wished the ending wouldve ended differently but overall the story of two opposites falling in love really makes this book a must read. Highly recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A unique high school story. It tugged all the emotions, I laughed, I cried, & got frustrated with the characters. Overall, it was amazing. Super excited to see the movie.
Chris Neumann More than 1 year ago
amazing edition of a true novel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was really a great book! Very good reading experience!
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
The characters in this book are fantastic. They are the kind of characters I love. I can see myself, my friends in them. They are real, relatable, and wonderful. Sutter, oh I just loved him so much.I loved my very own Sutter once (and for far too long). I think it's safe to say that we all know our own Sutter. He's an absolutely wonderful guy. He simply just falls short in the end. He's larger than life, intelligent in his own way, popular in that way that allows him to be friends with anyone, but he'll never be able to fulfill his full potential. He's got no long term direction and just free floats through life. And then, there's Amy. I think we all know an Amy, too. She's awkward, sweet, and soft-spoken. So much potential and all she needs is her own Sutter to unleash it all. The writing is funny, sad, messy, and really captures teenage life. Yeah, there's underage drinking and sex. It's not obnoxious or dramatic, but it's real. These things happen, whether or not people admit it. Life is messy and sometimes it's hard to navigate. We all try our best. I believe Tim Tharp paints a beautifully crazy picture. Yeah, it might not end in a way we'd like, but it works.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book a lot. Wasn't completely thrilled with the ending though. It was so short I thought my nook froze and left out about 200 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love it so much i accualy like the main cherector unlike some people. I like the plot as well. It is realistic and well writen. I recomend it. I also saw the trailer for the movie and really want to see it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Personally, I did not enjoy this book as much as I was hoping I would. I saw the trailer for the movie and was immediately drawn to the plot. At first, I liked Sutter. He had problems, but I felt like there was hope for him by the end of novel. I read it all in one setting, though only because I kept hoping for something 'spectacular' to happen. But it never did. Sutter ended the book as selfish and drunk as he was in the beginning. Overall, the book felt static. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is just like Sutter. It only cares about now. It doesn't think about solutions, resolutions, or even conclusions. Just the now. It is not spectacular, it ends up passed out in the bathroom with puke on it's face. I don't say this often or even lightly, the movie looks better than the book ~ The fabulous MS X
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was dissapointed in how the main character developed. Nothing was resolved and the story just went on and on without any answers. Terrible ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hope the movies as good as the trailor made the book seem to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was pretty disappointed in this book. I had read reviews that said how amazing it was, and saw the trailer for the movie, so I decided to read it. I'm one of those people who will only watch a movie based on a book if I've read the book first. Sutter has no character development, there's no plot or story arc, he learns nothing, and if anything, is a less like-able character at the end of the book than he is in the beginning. It's a waste of time and money to read this book. You're almost left scratching your head at the end of the book thinking, "Really? That's it?" I hate to say this because I mostly dislike when books are turned into movies, but I am pretty sure the movie will be much better.