Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer 2.5 stars

Let me start by saying that I had high expectations going into this book. There is a lot of hype surrounding it, it’s a 9/11 book, there’s a movie out, many 5 star ratings, etc…I expected something profound and life changing. I wanted to be blown away. Except, I wasn’t. The book wasn’t bad and towards the end I was enjoying it more, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected.

In the beginning of the story I found myself annoyed more often than not. While I certainly sympathized with Oscar over his loss and traumatic experience I never quite connected with him. The first thing that bugged me about him was that I couldn’t pinpoint his age based on the narration. The back cover says he’s 9, the text says he’s 8 but most of the time he spoke like an adult. Sometimes Oscar acted like a 5 year old, but then other times he acted like an adult. We were never told Oscar was diagnosed as autistic or if he was just highly intelligent for his age, but the discrepancy between age and behavior left me feeling distant from him.

I also didn’t care for the narrative style all that much. It came off as too gimmicky. I’ve read plenty of books with quirky writing styles which help to enhance the text. I usually like quirkiness that is subtle and not in your face because if not it can come off as the author is trying to hard to be different. The quirkiness in this book felt rather force to me and I didn’t feel like it added much to the text. I get that Oscar collects pictures and has a picture journal, so the author would naturally want to include this. The first time the pictures are presented it made sense, but after this the pictures that are shown seem rather random and their timing seemed off.

The narrative styles used for the three characters were also a bit confusing. The headings are important in this book and I hardly pay attention to headings, so I was a bit lost during the first transition. Once I got into the book, the narrative style was easier to follow and I enjoyed the book more.

As for the story itself…I sort of liked it, but sort of didn’t. It’s one of those books that develops slowly. One of those books where you just have to keep reading to understand the whole story. There’s a lot of confusion in the beginning because you don’t know where the story is headed and there are really two stories meshed into one, but it comes together in the end. I think my main issue was not the story itself, but that too many writing ploys were used to tell the story. I just wish the author would have used his words to tell his story rather than use several writing ploys, which only served as a distraction in my opinion.

I also didn’t understand the type of story the author wanted to write. Some parts, particularly those having to do with the grandfather, had sort of a magic realism quality to it, but than others scenes were written very realistically. If the magic realism parts were coming solely from Oscar then I could have understood because as readers we’re seeing things from the viewpoint of a child. But, this wasn’t the case. Anyway, I’m rambling at this point. I just felt like the author was trying to be creative, but the story was creative to the point of distraction for me.

One last thing- if you’re going to read this I think that a physical copy is the way to go. The ecopy and audio versions are missing pictures and some of the narrative ploys used to tell the story.