Thursday, January 8, 2009
The Spectacular Now-- Tim Tharp
This is a book that will evoke strong emotion in all who read it... Tharp's rich language and utterly engaging protagonist, Sutter, draw you in right away. He is an entirely likable guy, which makes disliking his actions all the harder. You see, Sutter is a full-blown drink-whiskey-in-the-morning, two day hang-over, drunk driving mess of a teenager. Yet somehow, the reader can just rationalize his behavior along with him because intentions are truly golden.
When we meet Sutter he is praising the glory of his fat and fabulous girlfriend Cassidy. She proceeds to dump him because he can't seem to put anyone first besides himself (and his 7 and 7). When Sutter meets Aimee he is passed out on the front lawn in an unfamiliar neighborhood after a particularly strong bender. He doesn't think of her as girlfriend potential... he is still half in love with Cassidy and Aimee is kindof a dork anyway. But Sutter feels like Aimee needs him; he wants to inspire confidence in her and help her overcome her dreary home life situation. Tharp's subtly is apparent through this relationship because on the surface it seems like Sutter is taking on Aimee is a project, but really it's Aimee who helps Sutter grow.
I can already see that some people will have problems recommending this book to teens. I wouldn't say this book glorifies alcoholism, but it sure doesn't demonize it. Everything *does not* get resolved in the end, which I really liked because it added a breath of realism to the book. The sad thing is that Sutter reminds me of some people I know... they are in their 20s, not teens, but still very similar. It's that "party-man" attitude; the idea that if you get royally intoxicated you will be the life of the party, the person everyone likes to see, the daredevil who will try anything. Honestly, society praises this type of behavior subtly through celebrity obsession, movies, and TV shows. And, if we are really going to be honest here, who doesn't like the life of the party and sometimes wish we could be that person? This is the crux of why it might be hard for adults to pass on this book to teens; Sutter is so likable and someone people will want emulate him... but he is an alcoholic, unhealthy, and makes dangerous choices.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and wish I had read it prior to our Mock Printz selections. I would recommend this book to older teens who enjoy strong character driven books with wellcrafted language and coming of age type plots.
P.S. I really really wish it had a better cover... I feel like the cover of this book will make it a hard sell...