Well this was pretty disappointing.
The premise was interesting, it wasn't the typical first person, Mary-Sue fantasy, taking place in a tween's head, and this from a famous (and supposedly great) contemporary American author, but the execution was not up to the minimal expectation I had for such a story.
My major problem with it was, that the character development was barely there, instead the book was dominated by similar, repetitive descriptions of derelict parts of today's America.Or better yet what would modern America would look to an old man, longing for the good old days.
And even though that could be a valid point of view, considering that one of the main characters is an man in his fifties, it comes across as a cheesy, semi-parody version, like the representation of the "though part of town" that you usually see in C or D class action movie.
All in all that's the impression I got from this book, that I was watching a mediocre movie that was trying to be deep and talk about current events. Instead it came out exceedingly preachy and corny.
I might give Updike another chance and read some of his (based on other reviews) better books, about middle class white people, because that was much better done even in this book, so that may be better, but this was just a collection of clichés and lacking in empathy and knowledge about what would make someone become the scariest thing that post 9/11 Americans can imagine: a terrorist that was born and raised in the US. The terrorist of this book is not convincing at all, and that is confirmed by the fact that he changes his mind in 3 pages.