Perfect. I was not expecting this at all. Not at all. There were so many things that I thought were done so well. The progression of the story seemed perfect. The development of the characters seemed perfect. The changes in the things that happened from one day to the next weren't a simple progression. There were mistakes and there was misunderstanding and misinterpretation and forward and backward and it seemed so real. I lost any sense of expectation and was on edge about what might happen. The extent of development of each character varied. There weren't main characters and secondary characters. It was more like you got to know each individual character to a different and to a perfect degree. Everything fit together to heightened the intensity of the emotions. The emotional detail and detail in the portrayal of Sam's frame of mind all along the way and the physical descriptions were perfect. By the time I was far enough through the story I could see that nothing was black and white - none of the characters were good or bad. This was an amazing look at life in a way that life itself usually prevents. Its not that the concept of this book was new or that there was anything that was unique about the story - the plot and the theme weren't surprising - it was just, in my humble opinion, done so well. My initial expectation of predictability was shattered somewhere along the line.
I consider this a coming of age story, although thinking of that phrase in the literal sense this is a really weird twist of the definition. I told someone not too long ago that I think everyone, regardless of age, should take the time every few years to read three or four coming of age stories by good authors to remind them of the things they've forgotten or that life has beaten out of them. This was a reaffirmation of that belief.