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THE SPECTACULAR NOW by Tim Tharp

THE SPECTACULAR NOW

By Tim Tharp

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-375-85179-7
Publisher: Knopf

It won’t take long for readers to deduce that Sutter Keely, the dreamless, ne’er-do-well protagonist of Tharp’s third novel for teens, is a bona fide alcoholic with a misled heart of gold. He’s the guy who can walk into any room and make the party atmosphere skyrocket; he can work the crowd, and everyone loves him. The various doses and nips of whisky and beer come so frequently that readers become numb to the effects: After page 20, they’ll no longer cringe when Sutter swigs from the bottle while behind the wheel or mistakenly pushes his habits on his girlfriend. Because this is a cautionary tale, however, readers know that he’s also every parent’s nightmare. The characterizations are convincingly strong, but unlike Daniel Ehrenhaft’s similar and better The After Life (2006), the author doesn’t take any risks with the “day in the life of a party hound” plot. The results feel directionless and flimsy, and while this mirrors Sutter’s personality and existence, it doesn’t necessarily add up to a good teen novel. The story loses steam as its shock value dissipates, and ultimately the booze ends up having more bang than the book. (Fiction. YA)