Review: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Pages: 294
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Source: Owned Print

Rating: C-

Review: This book is a wonderful example of how stupid the idea that “They made it into a movie so it must be good” actually is. And also a rare example of the movie being better than the book even though, really, that wasn’t very good either.

It isn’t very often that I give bad reviews. I don’t like doing it. But the reality is, not every book is good, very few are great, and a small few are terrible. The Spectacular Now wasn’t terrible, but…it was mediocre at best.

About halfway through, I had exhausted my patience with the main character, and I was ready to do something I almost never do…put it down without finishing it (insert gasp here). Instead, I opted to watch the movie…another something I rarely, if ever, do during the actual reading of a book (or before). In this very unusual case, watching the movie pushed me to finish the book because, even though the movie wasn’t fantastic, it had some redeeming qualities, and maybe, just maybe, if the movie was true to the book, Sutter Keely would be redeemed for me. Alas, it was not to be.

Sutter Keely was a hopeless case. And Aimee was so pathetic I couldn’t even feel sorry for her. There was so much potential for this book to be great, but it just…wasn’t. Woe is me. I’m apathetic and incapable of giving and receiving real love. For the reader to care about any of that, for us to be able to empathize with the protagonist, don’t we actually have to care about him? To see something we can identify with, some glimmer of hope? But no. Sutter Keely doesn’t really seem particularly depressed or despondent, just disinterested. The way he treats Aimee isn’t a kindness, it’s a reflection of a feeling of superiority, of arrogance. Does his relationship with her improve her life or situation? Yes. But mostly by accident. Yes, I believe he cared about her, but when you are as superficial and detached as Sutter, caring doesn’t really amount to much. And really, before you can truly love someone, you have to love yourself first. And Sutter Keely is more apathetic about his own life than anyone else’s.

No. I can get behind characters who struggle, but want to find a way to make it. I cannot get behind characters who give up without ever really trying.

If there was a point to this book other than “some people are just not worth the energy and even they know it” (which isn’t really a point worth making), I missed it entirely.

Another example of “how on earth did this book ever get nominated for a National Book Award”. Seriously. It was a finalist. A finalist. Truly starting to believe that book awards have nothing to do with the actual quality of a book.

And yeah, I’m starting to realize that my feelings about this book are a lot more antagonistic than is warranted by a C- rating, but I think that is more a reflection of how high my expectations were, not the quality of the book. The writing was fine. The characters were irritating, and the end was disappointing. In fact, the movie version vastly improved the storyline, and I don’t think I could recommend the movie either. I think that sums it up nicely (er, maybe not nicely, but honestly).

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