Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Penguin Books (2005)

ISBN 9780141012698

First and foremost, this is the story of a nine-year-old boy named Oskar. But it is much more than that. It is the story of a great void – a void as vast as the hole left on 9/11 in Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. The void in Oskar’s life,  the void in his mother’s life, in his grandparents’ lives, and many of the lives of the many strangers that  Oskar meets in his journey to find the lock that goes with his father’s key. The key is Oskar’s only piece of his father left behind for him to fill his void and he is relentless in his search for the possible owner of the matching lock, using every bit of cunning his father ever taught him as he explores the five Burroughs of New York. Oskar’s search takes him deeper into his own family as well as the far reaches of the city, and in his search for deeper understanding of his father, he also unravels the mysteries of his grandfather and the void there.

This is the story of a boy who hides in the closet, dreams of ways to save the world from bad things, plays the tambourine to stay calm, punishes himself when he thinks no one else will, and keeps his void hidden and his quest secret (so he thinks) in order to protect those he loves. The void left by the events of 9/11, whether deep or distant for readers, will resonate in this story. With humor as well as gravity, we walk in the shoes of one boy learning to deal with his void and gain an understanding of the process of healing that is the human spirit.

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 940; ATOS 4.7

Qualitative: Upper Grades (9-12) and Adult. This book is full of nuances and subtle references that are suitable for mature readers. Familiarity with historical events in Europe as well as some understanding of the geography of City of New York is helpful but not necessary. The alternating voices of Oskar and his grandparents can also be challenge but this story is engrossing and suitable for readers who are willing to tackle it.

Content Area: English; Social Sciences – U.S. History – 9/11

Common Core Standards: RL.11-12.1 – RL.11-12.10

Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books;

Recommended Reading: ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound

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