Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close deploys several elements of postmodern literature to tell a story about coming to terms with (or, at least, attempting to come to terms with) devastating grief, existential dread, and alienation. Its parallel narrative shows students that the novel is a very flexible genre, as it makes use of letters and pictures and other graphical elements.

The book is also a good example of post-9/11 literature; the protagonist's father dies in the September 11th attacks, and the protagonist attempts to process his grief and fear in the aftermath.

Summary of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Key Facts

  • Length: 368 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 940
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Recommended Grade Band: 8 – 12
  • New York Times Bestseller (Fiction, 2005)
  • New York Public Library’s “Books to Remember” list
  • ALA Outstanding Books for the College Bound (Literature & Language Arts, 2009)
  • International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist (2007)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the story of Oskar, a young boy whose father died in the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. While dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, Oskar travels New York in search for a lock that can be opened with the key his deceased father left behind.

What Your Students Will Love About Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  • Oskar's determination
  • Following Oskar through New York

Potential Student Struggles With Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  • Upsetting imagery
  • Odd relationships between characters
  • Intertwined narratives that can become confusing
  • The narrator, who can seem a little too precocious and precious

Literary Elements in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  • Symbolism
  • Imagery
  • Parallel narrative
  • Magical realism
  • Graphical elements (pictures, color, etc.)

Major Themes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Death — This key feature of the novel is apparent in both the physical death of Oskar’s father as well as Oskar’s constant anxiety and stress caused by his father’s death. Oskar attempts to comprehend death, and this becomes apparent in his search for understanding.

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Life and existence — As a young boy, even before the death of his father, Oskar questions and overthinks existence. After the death of his father, Oskar becomes even more existentially obsessed with the meaning of life.

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Family — The central figure of the novel’s family is the deceased father, who connects everyone, yet also causes them to develop a detachment from one another. The novel shows both family importance and family struggles, as Oskar learns to cope with those who have passed and love those who remain.

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Communication — An underlying theme is communication of all types: from letter writing from relatives to talking with people in New York. The novel also displays miscommunication and its negative effects on dealing with loss.

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Other Resources for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close