I really enjoyed this novel. I started it last night and finished it this afternoon; absolutely could not put it down. I loved the tone, it reminded me of Franzen's Corrections (time period and adolescent/family struggle).
Matt Garth was such a forceful character; always trying to do right while struggling with his own realization that his hero/father figure Dr. Dunbar was so flawed. I loved that Johnny was such a hole in the wall until the pivotal car racing scene; after that he grew a back bone. Certainly Johnny was trying the whole time to be different from his father despite Matt's complete emulation of Rex Dunbar.
The internal struggles felt so real, the pacing was great; the novel was incredibly sad, realistic, and funny all at the same time. Overall, it was very insightful without seeming to try to be.
My four favorite passages from the novel sum it up well:
"The power of human desire is matched only by our inability to express those desires, thus guaranteeing that neither comedy nor tragedy is ever in short supply."
"If the adolescent mind delights in any abstraction, it's recognizing hypocrisy in the world. And even though it exists in such abundance that not seeing it would require real effort, somehow its discovery always felt like real insight to us."
"...calm down and to nuture the self-pity that so often trails in anger's wake."
"...people always needed money, whether it was to get through a day or a year, to last through a life or to start a new one."