The Spectacular Now
Most books try to leave you with something good, you know? Everyone dies, but it's time for a new beginning. In the midst of despair is a spark of hope. The stage is littered with bodies, but here comes Fortinbras. Even Cormac McCarthy manages to pull it off.
Not The Spectacular Now.
But let's start with the good stuff. High school senior Sutter Keely is in trouble with his GF Cassidy for being inconsiderate. (Sorry, can we pause to say that Sutter and Cassidy sound like they should be sending in a wedding announcement to the NYTimes?) Anyway, Sutter may be a laid-back, alcohol-swilling party animal – but he's not really a bad guy. Still, we can't blame Cassidy for breaking up with him.
Things look promising when Sutter meets Aimee while plotting to get Cassidy back. Aimee is the polar opposite of Cassidy: nerdy, super shy, kind of plain-looking. Sutter decides to help her come out of her shell, and—big surprise—falls hard for her in the process.
At first, Sutter's the one helping Aimee to change. She grows more confident—and she starts drinking way too much. Eventually, Aimee takes charge, getting Sutter to take risks and make commitments he would never have touched before. He cuts down on the drinking, and even agrees to move to St. Louis with her for college.
But Aimee doesn't count on Sutter's spectacular (sorry) ability to self-destruct. She convinces him to visit his long-absent dad, whose example provides Sutter with a horrific vision into the future: growing up to become a drunken, depressed slacker.
Because he loves her so much, Sutter decides that the honorable thing to do is to get Aimee as far away from him as possible (duh), so she can find someone who'll be able to give her the future she deserves. He tricks her into moving to St. Louis on her own, figuring he'll break up with her via email later.
Without Aimee, Sutter slips right back into his old life of partying and drinking – but now it's taken on a dark twist. He gives up any hope of change and embraces the future he thinks his dad has doomed him to. The book ends with Sutter walking around the gravel parking lot of a run-down bar, completely drunk, deciding not to love or be loved by anyone ever again, and to spend the rest of his life living in the moment--drunk.
Fun story, huh?