Sunday, February 17, 2013
Spectacular Now (review)
The Spectacular Now (Goodreads | Amazon) is a strange sort of book. I want to lecture it, to give it my own personal big-sister talking to. In some ways I wanted to hate it because the way it almost glorified teenage drinking and partying.
But I can't. Because even if I don't agree with Sutter's methods, he feels like a real believable teenager. Sometimes it's brave for a book to portray drinking (I would call Sutter a teenage alcoholic but I don't think he would) without ever getting preachy or putting on the parent hat. It's disarming, but sometimes it's good for a book to rile us up and challenge what we think is right.
Sutter is one of those kids, the party boy with a heart of gold. To some people this might seem unrealistic, but it's not. I never knew a guy quite like Sutter, but I had a friend who was in and out of trouble in high school. For a goody-two-shoes like me, knowing him was a bit of a revelation. Yes he had problems, illegal ones, but he was a really good friend to me. Sometime's it's easy to label someone as a "bad guy" but it's much more realistic and complicated to acknowledge that sometimes there are good people with good hearts who still do bad things.
Sutter is like that. Yes he's probably an alcoholic, but he's trying to be a good friend and he really does genuinely cares about people. He just doesn't believe he can be anything more than the party guy. Beneath the fun party-loving facade, Sutter's real problem is that he doesn't think he's worthy of being loved. He always thinks everyone is going to leave him. So rather than tackle that head on, he drinks and keeps people at arm's length.
This story is not a lifetime-original movie, where a teenage alcoholic finds redemption. It's a story where Sutter accidentally learns to love and learns to be loved. This book is full of imperfect people who are just trying to figure out how to live life, have fun and be happy without bulldozing over everybody around them.
This book is a rarity. It made me angry, made me think and made me cry. In some ways it feels like a very dangerous books, that a teenager could walk away with entirely the wrong message, but I don't think every YA book needs to preach a sermon. The Spectacular Now tells a good story with believable imperfect characters. People are complicated and messy -- good, bad, stupid, careless, all of the above. But that doesn't mean they aren't valuable and don't contribute something to the world. That's the heart of this book.
Note:I listened to the audiobook and the narration is superb.