The Spectacular Now: book vs silver screen

A bit of background info: The Spectacular Now was published in 2008 and written by teen fiction novelist Tim Tharp.

Not going to lie, I found this film from a video of (the ever-so-handsome) Miles Teller and (incredibly talented and gorgeous) Shailene Woodley on Twitter. It was from one of those lovey-dovey feelings accounts that I shamefully follow, and it was SO CUTE OH MY GOSH. Let me explain.

The Spectacular Now follows budding alcoholic Sutter Keeley. Sutter goes to parties every Friday and Saturday night, spends Sunday in a hangover, and slips whiskey into his 7UPs during the week. Passed out in someone’s front lawn, he wakes up to the nerdy and quiet Aimee Finicky nudging him with her shoe. As Aimee agrees to help Sutter look for his car (which he lost when he was drunk) during her morning paper route, Sutter takes a “help-this-poor-girl-out” liking to her. He sits with her at lunch asks her to tutor him in geometry, but soon his feelings turn into something more. I mean, who didn’t see that coming?

I found the movie first, so I’ll say something about that. The movie was on (not) an illegal website and I immediately fell in love with it. It contained every aspect of a chick flick, with life lessons embedded into the plot. Think of it as the 2013 version of The Fault In Out Stars: both girls and guys will love it. Everything about the film was perfect (in my opinion) and it’s now one of my favorites.

Now, this book should not be called The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp, it should be called This Book Will Cause You Weeks Of Emotional and Physical Trauma, So Prepare Yourself  by Tim Tharp. 

The book started out just as the movie did, but there were some very dull moments that were gone into extreme detail that bored me a bit. Perhaps Tharp was trying to engage the reader emotionally into the story, but I personally found it mundane. Already seeing the movie, I was eager to know how the book ended, so that was my driving force that kept me reading. Also, many things were different in the film and book, including the bus scene with Aimee and the graduation. All in all, both were very good.

One thing I will say is that the book is told from the POV (point of view) of Sutter, so we know all of his thoughts and reasoning behind his actions. The book portrays Sutter as “I just want to help her out, I’ll be her boyfriend and show her the ropes of a relationship, then she’ll get tired of my reckless and immature behavior and leave me, so no harm done.” When watching the movie, I originally got the feeling that Sutter really did like Aimee. I still think he did in the book, the film just made it seem as if his feelings were true and honest from the start.

Another thing that bothered me was that in the book, Aimee’s character seemed so tasteless and unoriginal. Seeing the movie first, her character lit up the screen with a quiet and positive energy and I got to know her very well. In the book, she had few lines, and when she did have lines, they were vague and bland. Personally being a feminist, I would’ve loved to have the book portray Aimee as a stronger character as she was in the film. The book made her seem as a petty character, when in reality, she’s one of the main parts. She plays a major role in Sutter’s character development (which is a huge theme of the novel), so why not have her lines contribute to it?

All-in-all, it was a great book and a great movie. My topics for discussion would be:

  1. How do you feel about Aimee’s character being portrayed in the book vs her character in the film?
  2. How do you think Sutter’s feelings toward Aimee contributed to the plot of the movie vs the book?
  3. What life lessons could be taught through this film/book?

Happy reading! Grab some tissues, while you’re at it.

Elizabeth Meyer ’17

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