Thursday, April 19, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer


Extremely impactful and incredibly moving.  Extremely thoughtful and incredibly emotional.  Many different words could be put with “extremely” and “incredibly” to describe this book.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a novel published in 2005 by Jonathan Safran Foer, that explores the impact of a father’s death during the attacks of September 11, 2001, on his nine-year-old son, Oskar.  The book is told from Oskar’s, his paternal grandfather’s, and his paternal grandmother’s perspectives.  Oskar’s grandparents also suffered tragic events in their young lives as a result of war and their journey is told somewhat in parallel to Oskar's.  Oskar finds a key belonging to his father, and searches New York City for the key’s corresponding lock, in an attempt to relate to his late father and keep his father "alive."  Oskar meets many people along the way, and they all contribute to his healing from this tragedy.

The book was honored as one of the 2009 picks from the Young Adult Library Services Association as an Outstanding Book for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners.  I think this is an appropriate target as far as a student demographic for the book.  The way the book is written could be difficult for reluctant readers.  The narrative voice changes in some chapters and the reader often has to discern, by recognizing the style of the narrative voice and the references the narrator makes, which character is currently telling their portion of the novel.  My paperback version of the book was 326 pages long, which was interspersed with full page pictures, but the print was small and very close together.  The printing itself might make reluctant readers give up.  Quotations, when characters are speaking, are also not blocked in the typical way that quotations are usually marked in novels.  An exchange between two characters would appear as such: “Did you have a good day?” “Yes.” “Would you like a snack?” “I would prefer to wait for dinner.”  This is a style that at times challenged me when reading and I could imagine others might have the same issue.  The main character, as he is nine, also has many various thoughts which often crop up seemingly out of nowhere or continue on for a long time, which could be a turn off for some readers who prefer a simple plot to follow.  The novel also has some vulgarity and sexual references which would not be appropriate for all high school students.  If the book were taught in school, I think it would be most appropriate for honors English students.

Although the book might have its challenges for some, I do think this would be an excellent book for many upper level high school students to read.  Teenagers would be able to connect to a vast majority of topics that the book raises and many lively discussions could be had in class.  Topics ranging from what it is like to lose a parent or grandparent, how to cope with such a tragic event like that of September 11th, or how to react to experiences like school shootings could be tackled.  A follow up discussion could ensue regarding  how schools should respond to those events.  Teenagers could connect to whether they have any difficulty discussing what happened on September 11th, if the day still holds the same amount of significance, if they feel that things have changed for the nation as a whole since that day, and what, if any, impact it has had on their lives.  Many students of various races or religions could discuss how they have been impacted because of the events of September 11th.   Aside from that, students could discuss aspects of being a survivor in any situation, or how they are impacted by living in a single parent home.  Students could track the number of times that “incredibly” and “extremely” are used in the book, in what context, and develop connections between all these adverb uses or inquiry as to why the author used them how he did.  The book offers many different insights into various aspects of life, and weaves it all into a very emotional, humorous, and impressionable tale (which can now also be experienced in the movie adaptation, which I have not yet seen).

5 comments:

Sarah Rau said...

I enjoyed your review of this book a lot! I actually just checked it out from the library a couple days ago and have been really wanting to read it. I also thought your insight on how to best approach teaching this book in the classroom was right on the mark--great ideas.

runner4life23 said...

I have never watched the movie, but reading your review, I will probably watch it once school is done. Sounds very appealing although sad as well. Your classroom ideas sound excellent and would definitely work at that level. The connections are uncanny and your questions are a great approach to such a novel. Great review and awesome ideas Nicole :)

amykate208 said...

I really liked your ideas on how to teach this book in the classroom. I'm not an education major so I really like hearing the opinions of others since I haven't really been doing this blog based on how books would be conveyed in the classroom. I definitely want to read this book and the movie looks excellent as well. The trailer alone brings me to tears every time I watch it.

amykate208 said...

I really liked your ideas on how to teach this book in the classroom. I'm not an education major so I really like hearing the opinions of others since I haven't really been doing this blog based on how books would be conveyed in the classroom. I definitely want to read this book and the movie looks excellent as well. The trailer alone brings me to tears every time I watch it.

Susan said...

I LOVE this book. It's in contention for #1 on my list, which let's be honest will always be Harry Potter no matter what I say. But still, Jonathan Safran Foer is a WONDERFUL author and his other books are incredible as well. He has written three books and two of them have been made into movies! :)I haven't seen the movie yet, but I've heard mixed reviews.

I love your ideas for using it in a classroom too! I think it's interesting that so much of the world has been affected by the events on September 11th, but a lot of school aren't teaching about it. My 13 year old cousin was astonished when I explained everything that happened after he heard about the ten year anniversary. Is it just too soon still? Is he too young?