Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Plot Summary: 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.

This book was nominated for the National Book Award, along with the likes of THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, and CHAINS. And, let me tell you, it’s worthy.

This story is realistic, with a realistic ending. And it’s so rich with craft and strong in voice that I could not put it down. It’s just as strong as CHAINS in the showing department, but surpasses it in active word choice. This whole story is alive simply because of the words that Mr. Tharp chooses to use. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy. NOW.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

Even though Sutter Keely would never admit it, he’s obviously an alcoholic. But his story is not about him coming to terms with this, or even wondering if he has a problem. At least, not in the traditional sense.

It takes years to get over alcohol addiction, and I applaud Mr. Tharp for not giving Sutter that zinging moment where he realizes he’s an alcoholic and vows to never drink again. That’s just not realistic. It’s tough to get over any kind of addiction, especially when you don’t believe you have a problem. And Sutter clearly doesn’t believe he has a problem. But acknowledging similarity traits between himself and his father is a clear baby-step toward recovery. It leaves the ending open-ended. Sutter could stay on that path to recovery, or he may not. We have no way of knowing.

On top of all that, Mr. Tharp shows the perils of drinking without preaching. No easy feat.

This is an amazing book. Go get a copy.

Edited to add: I cannot believe I forgot about this!!! This book has the most effective use of present tense that I've ever seen. I only noticed it because I notice all present tense, and then usually adjust accordingly. There was no adjustment here - present tense worked from page one all the way through to the end. Which makes sense, since the book is called THE SPECTACULAR NOW. :) Tim Tharp just keeps making me grin with all this cool stuff he does with craft. :)

And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging... :)


C.R. Evers said...

Oh good! Another great book rec. I'm always looking for a great read! Thnx for the heads up!


Meg Wiviott said...

Thanks for recommending this book. I'm always looking for something new and good to read. I didn't read your whole post, simply because I don't want to have the ending spoiled - thanks for the warning.


Mary Witzl said...

As I read this, I thought to myself "Yet another book for my wish list." And then I remembered that I'd already won it on this very blog, and that even as I write this it's on its way to me! Now I can't wait to read this, and I know everyone else in this family will want to read it too. And though I DID read your spoilers, the book has not been spoilt for me. Thank you!

PJ Hoover said...

Really nice review. This one hasn't gotten as much press as the others it seems (at least not in my circles).
Sounds great though and like a worthy read.

Brenda said...

My book list is sooo long...I need to take a vacation so I can read some of them...I'm off to add this one to my list also...thanks...

Tabitha said...

This book is fabulous, and I'm thrilled that everyone is adding it to their TBR piles! :)

Mary, I'm just excited that you get to read it too, since you never get access to recent books. :)

Marcia said...

This sounds fantastic. I'll definitely read it.

Jennifer Taylor said...

Sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing.

Christina Farley said...

I've heard lots of good things about this book. So many good things to read and not enough time!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i need to stop reading book reviews - my list is going to take me until 2050 if i live that long.