Author: Tim Tharp
Publication Date: 11/11/08
Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers
Blurb(GR): SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.
Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.
I’m not sure if this book would have affected me quite as much if I didn’t know this boy. He is one of the people that I love the most on this planet, and he shares more DNA with me than anyone else. He’s intelligent, effortlessly popular, charming, kind, and entertaining. He has a big heart, fragile and exposed. We once spent hours in our backyard collecting slugs and setting them up in their very own tree stump castle. Once when he was facing a spanking, we schemed and plotted, arming ourselves with sticks for weapons. We were thick as thieves. But we all deal with the stress and trauma of childhood in different ways; we all have our coping mechanisms. As we grew up we fumbled our way down different roads, which led us further and further apart. I learned how to live inside my own skin, fired to hardness like pottery. He learned to smother everything under a chemically induced happiness.
I think that’s the most heartbreaking thing about Sutter Keely – he’s smothering himself. I can so easily feel the pain seeping out of the cracks in his bonhomie: when he reflects on all the girls that like him, but never seem to love him; when he thinks about how much better off his father is, now that he’s no longer living with his mother; when he tells the mother of a lost child, “Your son is hurting. He misses his Dad.” He can so clearly see the pain of others, but he can’t see his own grief, disappointment, and heartbreak at all. He’s the shoulder everyone likes to cry on, and he can’t see a friend in pain without trying to fix it, but he has no ability to fix himself.
I think that this is one of the most accurate portrayals of addiction that I’ve read. So many books tend to gloss over it, or go in the other direction and become “issue” books, and completely forget that addicts are still people. This book captures so much of the essence of addiction, and the first person narration lets us in on all of the bullshit he feeds himself to cope with the loneliness and self-hatred.
I know that the ending seems dark, but I found a bit of hope in this story. Aimee and Sutter are two lost kids, and while there are moments of honesty and beauty in their relationship, they cannot build anything solid when they are both dealing (or not dealing) with so many internal battles. Sutter’s method of ending things seems incredibly
realistic to me: both selfless and selfish at the same time, and suffused with his heartbreaking lack of self-worth. I’d like to find hope in Sutter’s increasing lows. Pain like that can’t be contained forever, and I do feel that despite the ending, he has begun to see certain things more clearly. That may be just because I’d like to hope that my brother can get better someday, though.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Bright Eyes – Landlocked Blues