I’m not sure about Hal. I can’t decide if he’s comic relief or just a bumbling idiot. Because of Ethan’s devotion to Debbie, it’s not unbelievable that he would be drawn to such a nincompoop, but I think it might be more realistic if you teased out a few of Hal’s better qualities to explain why they have stayed friends after the initial bonding experience over the Cadillac’s restoration.
I really love Ethan’s love of Mexican food. I also really appreciated that you never actually said as much in the text. So often, the novelists I beta-read for describe rather than show – I really get a sense of “getting to know” Ethan over the course of the book. There were a number of moments in the text where I noticed a pattern of behavior in a character that hadn’t been explicitly described to me by the narrator – I think this is the golden standard of character development. Well done.
If you’re going to self-publish, I wouldn’t change much. The book moves at a quick clip and has a good attention to detail without being distracting. Unfortunately, agents and publishers really focus on the first ten pages. It might need more of a shotgun headstart.
The spacing and format of your dialogue is a little off, but I thought it was really quite believable. Even when I wasn’t sure who was speaking based on actual attributions, I could usually tell just by the vocab and structure. I don’t know if this was done intentionally, but it was artful. I’d suggest doing it a little more, but a truly excellent start.
I found the focus on Amber finding everything “so cool” a little much. Ethan doesn’t really mock many people throughout the rest of the book, and she seems like a nice girl. Why is he mean to someone making Hal so happy?
I’m neither an Elvis fan nor an expert on the 1950s to 1970s – and you should definitely get someone in these categories to beta-read and fact-check. There were two places in which my “anachronism antennae” were vibrating (whether rightly or wrongly).
It’s awesome. Just wonderful. Unless someone is offering you a cash advance, refuse to change it.