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Read This: “The Spectacular Now”

I know Sutter Keely. At least that’s how I felt reading Tim Tharp‘s novel, The Spectacular Now. Three months ago I didn’t even know The Spectacular Now was a book, but after reading a Television Without Pity article highlighting some of well-received films at Sundance, I found out The Spectacular Now was based on a book. A YA book in fact, that was a National Book Award Finalist! I was obviously immediately intrigued when the article claimed Perks as “so 2012,” coming of age stories basically scream my name. Plus guess who’s starring? Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller! (And according to IMDB Kyle Chandler is in this cast, too?!)  Woodley’s range of roles is impressive to me, and ever since I went to see Sherlock Holmes last year and Teller was in line in front of me at the concession stand I’ve been curious about his career. We’re from the same county, and I was unaware at the time, but the friend I was with filled me. He’s already acted in several different film roles, Rabbit Hole, Footloose, Project X and so the combination of the cast and the basic premise of the story had me terribly intrigued by this book.

I had a literature teacher in college once who told us that most writers are attempting to tell the same story over and over until they finally get it right. Sometimes, when I’m reading I think that I’m looking for the characters or the story that finally explains things I’ve experienced, right. (Of course you’re probably thinking why don’t I just write the story myself? I know, I know.) Every once in a while I come across a piece of work where I feel like the creator has crawled into my life. I wasn’t expecting this with The Spectacular Now but there, sprawled across the pages was a story closely resembling one I knew.

Sutter Keely. He’s a party animal. He’s witty, he’s spontaneous, he’s intelligent but he doesn’t really apply himself in school. In math class, he’s watching a video game in his head so obviously his imagination is on spot but his attention span is short-lived. Sutter makes a good time wherever he goes. He’s all about the music (old crooners like Dean Martin, actually) and driving with the windows down destination unknown. Hiccup? He’s rarely without a cup of whiskey and 7-Up. This doesn’t always end well and his drunken escapades lead him to meet some interesting people along the way. Sutter has a family, they definitely love and care for him but he’s not connected to them, they rarely know what’s going on his head and he doesn’t often share. Sutter will be the first to tell you that he’s not interested in long-range plans, and he’s not particularly concerned about his future. Sure he’s completely scattered, and his ambitions could use some strengthening, but Sutter Keely has a really good heart. He most often chooses the path of kindness, even if it won’t benefit him when faced with a decision.

I know I’m being tremendously vague here, but I want you to meet these characters on your own without all of my opinions influencing the read. I’m not sure how I went so long without reading it, or even hearing about it but I HIGHLY recommend this one. The narrative was refreshing. Even though I read books with the voice of a teenage male fairly often, The Spectacular Now felt different. It felt seriously authentic, vulnerable, real. (Also, I’ll clue you in that for as loveable and maybe even endearing Suter can be, primarily because of his charm – he can just as easily be incredibly frustrating and make you want to shake his shoulders a little.) This is the first Tim Tharp book I’ve read, but I enjoyed it and will most likely read more of his work. He had me laughing, and my heart twisting. I wanted to go for a ride with Sutter, (preferably when he’s not under the influence.) I wanted to chat with him about life, and really I wanted to give him a hug. I’ve tweeted several times trying to find others who’ve read this story, and apparently none of my friends have read it yet. So, now I’m turning to you: have you already been on the journey with Sutter in The Spectacular Now? Are you anticipating the film? (I can’t wait to see the transition from page to screen!) If you haven’t read it yet, but you end up doing so after reading this post come back and share your thoughts!

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