Study Guide

The Spectacular Now

By Tim Tharp

The Spectacular Now Introduction

You know those kids who just have it all together? The straight-A students, who've already been accepted by their college of choice, have their whole futures planned out, and who still manage to find the time to head up a club or two at school and volunteer in a soup kitchen on the weekends?

Yeah, Sutter Keely is so not one of those kids. In fact, Sutter's pretty much the exact opposite of those guys.

In fact, this isn't really your typical high school story.

In fact, it's kind of … dark.

Written in 2008 by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now takes us through Sutter's senior year of high school. Think more spectacular fail than spectacular now. Even with just about everyone he knows trying to steer him in the right direction, the dude still manages ruin his life. Spectacularly. He starts senior year as a kind-hearted, carefree party animal with a girlfriend and a bunch of pals, but by the end of the book – well, let's just say he's still partying, and not in a good way.

Tim Tharp has scored a few Young Adult Lit awards for his other books, but he hit the jackpot with The Spectacular Now. It was made into a movie in 2013 – a movie that won an award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Now that's spectacular.

What is The Spectacular Now About and Why Should I Care?

Hey guys, Sutter Keely here. My stupid math teacher sent my mom a note about my grades. Thank goodness I intercepted it. There's no way mom is ever seeing this one:

Dear Mrs. Easley,

This letter is to inform you that your son, Sutter Keely, is currently failing Algebra II. Without a C on his final exam, he will not be graduating with the rest of his class. (Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before. I'll be fine! Just fine. No biggie.)

On a more personal note, I would also like to bring to your attention the alarming lack of concern Sutter seems to have with regard to his future. (Here we go.) He skips school on a regular basis, hasn't even thought about college yet, and lately seems to have fewer and fewer friends at school. (What? How on earth does he know? What, is he stalking my FB page or something?)

Aimee Finecky is the one person who will still spend time with him. At first, she seemed to be having a good influence on him at first – but recently I've been seeing some negative changes in her, and wonder if he isn't having a bad influence on this student, who was formerly so studious and quiet. (Okay, now that's a low blow. Aimee's just fine, thank you – I'm making sure of that.)
Students talk, Mrs. Easley, and a teacher would have to be deaf not to overhear much of what they discuss. I'm not oblivious – I know that many of our students drink alcohol at the parties they attend on the weekends. (Whoa, wait – he does?) From the comments I've been overhearing, however, it seems that the agree Sutter drinks more than any of them by far, and that it's affecting his relationships with them, as well as his schoolwork and plans for the future. (Whatever. He's just a teacher – what does he know? He probably misunderstood them. I've got tons of friends!)

In the end, Mrs. Easley, I only want what's best for your son. (Yeah, right.) I entreat you to speak with him about his growing alcohol problem, before it's too late, and he makes a mistake that can't be corrected with an eraser.

Mr. Aster

So I drink. So I'm laidback about school. Who what? It's not like I'm some alcoholic. Sure, I carry a flask, and yeah, I've gotten into some pretty big messes drinking. But it's all good. Everything always turns out fine. Doesn't it?

I mean, I'm not going to become some cautionary tale, am I? It's not like anyone is going to read my story for a good hard look at the consequences of alcoholism—the constant excuses, the life-ruining addiction, or the wasted future.


The Spectacular Now Resources


Heeeeeere's Timmy
Tim Tharp's author website

Forever Young
We seriously hope you don't need this, but we can't let you go without a brief PSA. Here's a message to teens from Alcoholics Anonymous.

Movie or TV Productions

The Spectacular Movie
See Sutter in his award-winning action.

Sutter Takes a Tumblr
Ugh, these two are too cute. Sickening.

Articles and Interviews

Page to Stage
This movie review covers the book pretty well, too.

Tharp Thinks Thoughts
Find out where the idea for Sutter came from.

Careful with that Knife – it's Tharp
More about Tim's take on YA lit.

Captain Kirkus
Kirkus Reviews thinks the booze has more bang than the book.


Sutter and Aimee's Chemistry

Appropriate Audiences
This trailer actually makes the movie look heartwarming.

Aimee Talks
Okay, if you can ignore the silly hat, Shailene Woodley is pretty cute.


Does listening to the ebook count as drinking and driving?


Cover Up
Is it just us, or does this cover remind anyone else of the titles for a Bond movie?

Sutter's Whiskey and 7
Can we see some ID?

Love is in the Air
Fire up the Jimmy Buffett.