This was one of the best debut contemporary novels I have ever read.
For the most part, this book is about Cullen; how he's feeling about "that damn bird", the loss of his brother, and his overall life. John Corey Whaley seems to have this uncanny knack for being able to have Cullen talk about himself in third person without seeming like a total douche. In fact, I found it rather charming the way he always said stuff like "When one sees..". So strangely, even though this book is written in first person and felt personal, it was still more like a story being told to the reader - like the use of full names for people who are Cullen's best friends. Maybe it's because Cullen doesn't like to let anyone in, including himself? I'm still not even sure how Mr. Whaley (do his students call him this, I wonder) managed to do this. But I absolutely loved it.
There is also another story going on simultaneously; outside of Cullen's life. And this, at the beginning of the novel, confused the heck outta me. It is the story of a college aged missionary and how he affects his college roommate. I was thinking to myself, "What the heck does this have to do with Cullen?" And about 85% of the way through the novel, I gave a BIG pat on the back to John Corey Whaley. Yes, these two stories do, in fact, have to do with each other.
Some other things that I loved about this book: The ridiculous accuracy of what it's like to grow up in a small southern town. (I'm from North Carolina and so I know what this is all about.) and the theme of second chances. (I appreciate the title of this book so much more now that I've read it.)