John Updike, writing for The New Yorker, found the novel to be "thinner, overextended, and sentimentally watery," compared to Foer's first novel. He stated, "the book's hyperactive visual surface covers up a certain hollow monotony in its verbal drama." In a New York Times review Michiko Kakutani said, "While it contains moments of shattering emotion and stunning virtuosity that attest to Mr. Foer's myriad gifts as a writer, the novel as a whole feels simultaneously contrived and improvisatory, schematic and haphazard." Kakutani also stated the book was "cloying" and identified the unsympathetic main character as a major issue. The topic of the child narrator is a contentious one. Many critics found the child narrator to be unbelievable and not relatable. Anis Shivani said similarly in a Huffington Post article entitled "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers," claiming Foer "Rode the 9/11-novel gravy train with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, giving us a nine-year-old with the brain of a twenty-eight-year-old Jonathan Safran Foer."
Despite several unfavorable reviews, the novel was viewed positively by several critics. Foer’s child narrator was featured in a critical article titled “Ten of the Best Child Narrators” by John Mullan of The Guardian in 2009. The Spectator stated that "Safran Foer is describing a suffering that spreads across continents and generations" and that the "book is a heartbreaker: tragic, funny, intensely moving". "Foer's excellent second novel vibrates with the details of a current tragedy but successfully explores the universal questions that trauma brings on its floodtide.... It's hard to believe that such an inherently sad story could be so entertaining, but Foer's writing lightens the load." Sam Munson, in a review of two novels on catastrophe claimed, “Foer has a natural gift for choosing subjects of great import and then pitching his distinctive voice sharply enough to be heard above their historical din.”