Summary via Goodreads:
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.
Why I Read It:
I needed an audiobook to listen to on the five-hour drive home for Christmas, so I thought this might be an easy listen. I switched to the regular book version to finish up the final two thirds of the story.
Overarching Story Line: 1/5
The basic story line—boy searches for clues about a mysterious key found in his deceased father’s closet—is a good idea in theory, but in practice it just did not work out. I found so much of this novel to be incredibly unbelievable. A young boy travels all over New York City by himself, knocking on the doors of people he’s never met and about whom he knows absolutely nothing? I also didn’t enjoy the secondary story line, which is told by Oskar’s grandmother and grandfather and is remarkably depressing. I felt like good storytelling was being sacrificed for emotional manipulation of the reader.
I hated the way the grandfather wrote, using all commas instead of periods. I didn’t like the chapter in which the words got closer and closer together until it was just pages of black, letters piled upon letters until it was unreadable. And I didn’t understand the random pictures interspersed throughout the book. I definitely could have done without those.
One of the only things I did enjoy about the book was Oskar. I thought he was quite an interesting character: emotional, unique, and very intelligent. He struck me as someone who may have been on the Autism spectrum. I liked the way he spoke, and I enjoyed the sections that he narrated the most.
Additional Elements: 3/5
This story is saturated with the events of September 11, 2001. I think that this book illustrated to me the true tragedy of that day better than anything ever has before.
People who like really sad books.