Monday, April 12, 2010

Nothing-- Janne Teller

This book broke my brain.

Seriously, it was amazing. And I almost *never* say that about a book on this blog.

One day, 7th grader Pierre Anthon stood up in the middle of class and announced "Nothing Matters." He then leaves behind his normal existence, climbs a plumb tree and doesn't come down. Ever. He lives there and spews existential philosophy about nothingness, life, and death to his bewildered classmates.

His classmates, including Agnes who narrates this story, decide to prove to him that some things in life DO matter. They neglect their every day life and indulge themselves in this pursuit with the single-minded fervor of youth. At first it starts simply; the 7th graders decide to create a pile of meaningful items (later dubbed the Heap of Meaning) and then fetch Pierre Anthon out of the tree and prove to him that life does have meaning by showing him the pile. Each teen demands a meaningful donation from another... Agnes must toss in her favorite pair of shoes, another teen her crutches. But quickly the Heap of Meaning demands more sinister and macabre donations, and in the end the teens simultaneously refute and prove without a doubt Pierre Anthon's assertions about life.

Other reviewers are calling this a modern Lord of the Flies. I can see that correlation, and it also called to mind Cormier's The Chocolate War. I loved the stark way this book was written, the unabashed bluntness, the pace, and way it made me think philosophical thoughts not revisited since college. I think this book will appeal to the teen reader who likes stark, thought-provoking novels. While the characters are 7th graders, I do see the older teen appreciating this book more than the younger teen. Adults are going to either eat this up or blast it for being inappropriate for youth.

Nothing was originally written in Dutch and published in 2008, and was translated into English and published in America in February 2010. I wonder if it's eligible for the Printz, because if it is, I will be nominating it for Mock Printz for sure!


Larissa Kyzer said...

Thanks for this review! I've heard a lot about this book and am looking forward to reading it myself. Just a note, though--it was actually written in Danish originally.

Ms. Yingling said...

Hmm. I will take a look at this, but there were several things that make it not my first priority. I dislike both The Chocolate War and Lord of the Flies, AND anything translated from Russian or Danish. And quirky characters. But if you loved it this much, I'll have to check it out.