As in A Man Called Ove, there are clear themes here, nominally: the importance of stories; the honesty of children; and the obtuseness of most adults, putting him firmly in league with the likes of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman. A touching, sometimes-funny, often wise portrait of grief.
Yes, it’s formula. Yes, it’s not as gritty an exercise in swamp mayhem as Hiaasen, Buchanan, or Crews might turn in. But, like eating a junk burger, even though you probably shouldn’t, it’s plenty satisfying.
The Shack is predictable. By the time you read the first 30 pages, you know how it's going to end. That said, it's an easy read, and Young tells a tight, well-constructed story that holds your interest. He really should have edited out the hokey walking on water scenes with Jesus, though.
At the end of the day, Small Great Things is a valiant effort to do something positive. Picoult must be applauded for that. The story itself is excellent, fast-paced, and even at times nail biting. But there are bound to be #ownvoices criticisms that are equally valid.