Book in Review: The Spectacular Now9:01 PM
Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
October 20, 2008
Knopf Books for Young Readers
The Spectacular Now is about a high school senior named Sutter who likes 3 things: his "fat" girlfriend Cassidy, drinking and partying, and basically living the yolo life. The protagonist isn't new, there are a lot of books that have immature screwed up little boys who don't have any future plans except living in the now and having fun. Now, this wouldn't be much of a problem if Sutter would be 17 forever, but that's not the case, so Cassidy breaks up with him, because she actually wants to have a future, and Sutter won't probably ever give that to her. This of course affects Sutter, though not much, as he does believe that Cassidy will get back together with him. We also quickly find out that Sutter has daddy issues, as his parents had a divorce when he was younger. He lives with his mom, who he blames for the divorce because apparently she kicked his father out of the house. Sutter also of course had a best friend, who is like him in many ways with his weed addiction, but changes when he falls in love with his new girlfriend. This leaves Sutter confused with his life as seemingly so everyone is moving on with their lives, changing and evolving except him.
Enter Amy Finnicky. One night Sutter gets completely drunk and is woken up by Amy the next morning. He's in an unknown neighborhood, and he has no recollections of the night before, plus his truck is nowhere to be found. Amy helps him find the truck, while he helps Amy with her paper route - she delivers papers to houses for her mother every morning at the crack of dawn. We immediately know that Amy is this incredibly helpless pushover who simply can't stand up for herself while her mother and stepfather boss her around endlessly. Sutter makes it his life's mission to help Amy, and eventually they become a couple.
I really had high hopes for this book, especially since the synopsis reminded me a lot of Catcher in the Rye but it disappointed me so much and I finished the book with a heavy annoyed feeling. The writing was fresh, and crisp and the voice of Sutter was very charming and well written. I had no problems with the technicals of this story, as the grammar the technique and the prose was perfect. However, I can only rate this a 3.0 rating. I will explain why.
My primary problem is with Sutter.
Sutter does not develop or progress throughout the book, and does nothing to help Or save Amy at all (unless you consider bad influencing Amy into becoming a drunkard as helping her). He does not mature or come of age, he does not get struck by a epiphany or a eureka moment that he needs to change his ways, but rather he realizes at the end that he loves the way his life is going, and that he'd rather live in the spectacular now. I know that maybe it is the point of the author to make this the ending of the book, as a cautionary tale, and you've got characters moving on like his best friend, Cassidy, and Amy who moves to Boston, yet Sutter is left behind and we the readers are left with this big lesson that we shouldn't be like Sutter. Yet, I found this story incredibly infuriating as the author completely ignores the structure of a maturation plot or a plot in general, which is that the character must mature or change. Sutter mostly stays the same from the beginning and the end of the book. And that is where a promising book like this fails for me.