Title: The Spectacular Now
Author: Tim Tharp
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Price: $8.99 (Paperback)
Number of Pages: 304
Awards: National Book Award Finalist
Genre/Subgenre: Realistic Fiction
An unexpected romance blossoms between the life of the party and the girl next door.
Sutter Keely is a high school senior whose life is all about fun: partying, girls, drinking, and what he refers to as living in “the spectacular now.” His senior year takes an unexpected turn when he winds up drunk on a stranger’s front lawn and is rescued by classmate and notorious good girl Aimee Finnicky. Despite their differences, or perhaps because of them, Sutter is drawn to Aimee and feels a need to help her come out of her shell. Sutter discovers that there is a lot more to Aimee than meets the eye, from her love for science fiction to her troubled family life that he can’t help but relate to. As their romance progresses, Aimee wants to help Sutter as well, in particular to connect with his estranged father. The two go on a road trip to see Sutter’s father that shows Sutter just how damaged he is and how destructive he is to Aimee. Sutter breaks off his relationship with Aimee and ends the novel much as he began – partying, drinking, and enjoying “the spectacular now.”
In The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp creates a protagonist who is simultaneously troubling and likable. Sutter Keely is supposed to be an extremely charismatic personality and at the same time a truly sad person, and Tharp deftly coveys this to the reader. This novel also does a great job of capturing the excitement and terror of growing up, and the difficulty (and in Sutter’s case impossibility) of leaving behind childhood. Although at times this was a very frustrating read and Sutter was a frustrating character, ultimately it was very enjoyable novel and I think it would be well-received by young readers.
Why I Chose the Book:
I wanted to read The Spectacular Now after watching and enjoying the film adaptation. I really enjoyed the characters and wanted to see how they had been originally written and how the film differed from the novel.
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Book Talk Ideas
Host a screening of the 2013 film The Spectacular Now. Discuss the changes made in adapting the book to the screen.
1. Compare Sutter’s depiction of himself with other character’s assessments of him. Is he a reliable narrator? Why or why not?
2. Ultimately, do you think Sutter was a positive or negative force in Aimee Finnicky’s life? Defend your position.
(To be used in a discussion comparing the book and the film)
3. The film adaptation drastically changes the ending of Sutter and Aimee’s story. How does this affect the message of The Spectacular Now, and which ending do you think is more realistic?
2008 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists (2014). The National Book Foundation. Retrieved from:
The Spectacular Now (2014). Amazon. Retrieved from:
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (2014). Goodreads. Retrieved from:
The Spectacular Now Film (2014). IMDB. Retrieved from:
Tharp, T (2008). The Spectacular Now. New York, NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers.