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The Spectacular Now Hardcover – October 20, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 451 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Unlike most high school seniors, Sutter Keely—the narrator of this smart, superbly written novel—is not concerned with the future. Hes the life of the party, and hes interested in the Spectacular Now. In stream of consciousness–style prose, Sutter describes his lurching from one good time to the next: he carries whiskey in a flask, and once its mixed into his 7Up, anything is possible. He will jump into the pool fully clothed, climb up a tree and onto his ex-girlfriends roof or cruise around all hours of the night. Without ever deviating from the voice of the egocentric Sutter, Tharp (Knights of the Hill Country) fully develops all of the ancillary characters, such as socially awkward Aimee, the new girlfriend who tries to plan a future with this quintessential live-for-the-moment guy. Readers will be simultaneously charmed and infuriated by Sutter as his voice holds them in thrall to his all-powerful Now. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
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From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Sutter Keely, a high school senior, is determined to live in the moment. He eschews planning for the future, intent on letting the good times roll. Sutter's been downing six packs since seventh grade and is rarely without his flask of Seagram's. Despite the heavy drinking and some raunchy sex talk, he is initially a likable character with a fresh and funny voice, but his affability wanes quickly and that voice just doesn't ring true. He meets Aimee when he passes out on her front yard. Sutter isn't really interested at first and only dates her because he considers her a project, someone he can help become less of a social outcast. Along the way, he begins to come off as condescending and egotistical and his sarcasm isn't as comic. It's a well-written book told in first person, but the narration seems much too sophisticated to be believable. He uses phrases like, "I am…sore at heart" and utters phrases like, "the room brimmed with padded chairs." Some of the plot is also disconcerting. As the result of Sutter's drunk driving, Aimee is struck by a car on a highway and suffers only a broken arm. The story ends with Sutter drinking in a bar, assured he's a hero after dumping Aimee, and rejoicing about feeling nothing.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School Library, Lancaster, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375851798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375851797
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (451 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,299,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Bradford on August 15, 2013
Format: Library Binding

Here's a rule for all book reviewers: DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE ENDING TO THE NOVEL. That's something readers may want to discover for themselves!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, like others, found myself simultaneously entranced and infuriated by Sutter Keely. Sutter is, for all of his faults,a likable person, but the world is moving past him while he's standing still: his best friend Ricky is moving past all of their partying and wild times and into a serious romantic relationship; the other students at school are looking past the "now" and into the future of college and work; even Sutter's own family is moving on in their own ways, while Sutter deludes himself that the Spectacular Now is enough for him.

"Voice" in YA novels is everything, and this novel certainly has that: Sutter Keely is a very familiar character (we all remember "that guy" from high school) and yet is uniquely his own person.

Highly recommended for both teens and adults: this novel is by turns warm, witty, wise, and heartbreaking.

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"Well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable" -- Emily Saliers

"Forget the dark things. Take a drink and let time wash them away to wherever time washes things away to." -- Sutter Keely

THE SPECTACULAR NOW is such an achingly humor-filled, intensely sad story, that it has taken me a couple of days of processing the emotions it stirred up before being able to talk about Sutter Keely. Having previously included KNIGHTS OF THE HILL COUNTRY (Tharp's previous book for teens) on my Best of 2006 list, I was well aware of the author's abilities, but this second book is Something Else. It is one that absolutely should be added to high school collections and to required reading lists for YA Lit students.

High school senior Sutter Keely is great friends with a long line of ex-girlfriends. He has a superb sense of humor, plays well with his peers, is forever the life of the party, and professes his affinity for embracing the weird. But as his latest relationship crumbles, he asks himself, "Why is it that girls like me so much but never love me." And, of course, as we come to learn, it is the damaged young alcoholic himself, and not the girls, who has the real problem. Or a number of real problems.

But then he has a chance pre-dawn meeting with a girl he's never noticed who is so unlike his partying crowd:

"She jerks back, startled to see me move. 'You're alive,' she says. 'I thought maybe you were dead.'
"I'm like, 'I don't think I'm dead.' But right now I can't exactly be sure of anything. 'Where the hell am I?'
"'You're in the middle of the yard,' she says. 'Do you know someone who lives here?'
"I sit up and look at the house -- an ugly, little, pink brick one with a window air-conditioner unit. 'No, I never saw it before.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Another book I came across on Buzz Feeds 14 Books To Read Before They Hit The Big Screen. Full review to come.

It is touted as a coming of age type of story, which to me means that at somepoint in the story the person grows a little or learns a lesson. In that way, I feel like the author/book failed. To me Sutter is pretty much the same guy at the beginning of the book as he is at the end of the book.

The entire book is from Sutter's POV, which I have to admit is different. It is also a good thing. If not for POV and internal thinking, I would only think of him as a shallow, drunk, party boy, who only lives in the moment without ever thinking about the future or the consequences of his actions. Even with his POV these things are true, but you are also able to tell that he is hurting. I would more call this a slice of life type of book.

One day Sutter wakes up on a stranger's lawn with Aimee staring down at him. Sutter decides that Aimee who is a quiet, responsible girl, with her future all planned out, needs to loosen up and stand up for herself. He sets off with his plan to improve Aimee. Not everything goes as planned, but there does seem to be a connection between the two. Too bad we couldn't see what was happening through Aimee's eyes too.

Obviously with this book there is a lot of teen drinking, drugs, sex, and all around bad behavior.

I liked it all right, but did not find it spectacular by any means. I still plan on checking out the movie sometime, but I can already tell there are some definitely differences between the book and the movie.

I don't think I would recommend this book to my friends.
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Despite the fact that The Spectacular Now is also a movie, I’d heard of neither the book nor the movie when I randomly came across it whilst looking for new YA realistic fiction books. And it was only when I heard that it touched on teenage alcoholism that it actually got my attention. I’m always on the look out for realistic fiction that covers different or less often written about subjects and that’s the main reason why I picked it up.

Sutter Keely is apparently the life of the party. And this is where my first issue came jumping and screaming into the spotlight – I didn’t understand him as a character. I didn’t get why everyone liked him, why he was supposedly everyone’s best friend and, most importantly, why he is considered a hero. Sure, he’s snarkily amusing, rather cool and unbothered by the plethora of issues that surround his life, but he wasn’t the type of character that I would either be drawn to or fascinated by.

And perhaps I missed a screamingly obvious point somewhere along the way, but his repeated references to his kinda-ex-girlfriends weight just really rubbed me up the wrong way. I’m not sure if it was intended to show that he was open minded, or that society is accepting of fat girls, but none of it felt real or believable to me.

The subject of Sutter’s alcoholism is glaring – he’s continually drinking – but there’s no real consequence to it, and that’s probably what disappointed me the most. Other than one particular intervention incident, it felt so glossed over that it made me quite angry – it almost felt romanticised.

The Spectacular Now IS different from many YA realistic fiction novels, and in that way it is certainly memorable. It’s just a rather big issue for me that it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
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