What the F!@#?! I'm going to let that sink in with you for a minute. This book was a huge WTF. First, it was disappointing. Jonathan Safran Foer's book Everything is Illuminated is one of my favorite books. It's so beautiful and moving and weird and hysterical that I treasured every moment I got to read it. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, also written by Foer, has such an awesome title that I thought it would be a surefire win. It wasn't; in fact, it wasn't even close to a win. Secondly, the book was unbelievable. I love weird stories where unimaginable things are happening, but when you take a story that is actually supposed to be believable and then mix in these things that are happening that should never happen, it makes your story so obnoxious. Third, this is a complete knock-off of the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. There are moments when the similarities are uncanny. I feel like Foer just rewrote The Curious Incident and decided that he wouldn't make the main character autistic. However, if he had made the character autistic then a lot of the stuff that happens would have made sense, but since he couldn't make it so obvious that he was just rewriting The Curious Incident, he couldn't give the little kid autism. If you're disagreeing with me right now, read Extremely Loud and then read The Curious Incident and then let's discuss.
Okay, so the story starts sadly. A 9-year-old boys' father dies in the World Trade Center on 9/11. There's a heartbreaking tale in the book where the father calls his house while he is stuck in the towers and leaves a message on the answering machine that the boy continuously listens to. That part gave me chills.
At some point after the father's death, the 9-year-old finds a key in the dad's closet and it's in an envelope with the totally generic word "BLACK" written on it. Shit. This is really where the book lost me. The boy believes that this is a treasure hunt that the dad left for him (because apparently the dad and his young son used to play these treasure hunt games) and so he begins a quest for the lock that the key will open.
Holy Jeepers Creepers. This story is weird. Okay, so this 9-year-old is somehow smart enough to figure out how to contact every person with the last name "Black" in NYC. Really. EVERY PERSON. Do you know how long that would take you? And then he just begins walking around NYC going to stranger's houses asking them about this key. It's just so unbelievable and stupid. Extremely Unbelievable and Incredibly Stupid. It's also contrived. Because of course he's going to meet interesting characters who help him on this journey and bring levity to the situation.
Yuck. This story just annoyed me. It made no sense and what was worse is that the characters were so under developed that you didn't care if this kid walked into a drug den on his journey. In fact, I wished he had done that. It would have made things much more interesting.
Overall, I thought this book was terrible. 1/5 stars or 3/10 stars.