Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Nothing - Janne Teller

Where I got it: Library
Rating: 4 stars
Cover Rating: 5 stars (Very fitting to the main concept of the novel. The title is perfect and I love that the tree carries on to the back page too.)
Genre: Young Adult
Publication Date: February 9, 2010
Publisher: Atheneum
Page Count: 227 p.

Pierre Anthon stands up in class one day to announce that life has no meaning and that he is off to go practice being nothing.
Pierre's classmates are confused by what this may mean for them if he is right. What if life has no meaning? They know the only way to carry on is to prove to Pierre Anthon that there is in fact meaning. So they set out to build a heap of meaning. A whole heap of meaningful things in the middle of an abandoned sawmill. When they decide that they too have to contribute to the pile of meaning that's when things get serious. They can't trust a person to give up what is meaningful to them, so everyone has to pick something for someone else to give up. A pair of shoes, a bike, a pet, innocence–as the pile grows so do the stakes. Can all these worthwhile object really make a pile of junk meaningful? Will it convince Pierre Anthon that life has meaning?

Well, let me just start off by saying this book certainly did not happen the way I expected it. I personally don't like to know too much about a book before I read it. A brief summary, a nice cover, or a glimmer of a 5 star review is all I really need. So when I was cataloging this book and saw the writing style, saw that it was translated from Danish, and was a finalist for some awards, I was intrigued. Then I saw the summary from inside the book which read: "When thirteen-year-old Pierre Anthon leaves school to sit in a plum tree and train for becoming part of nothing, his seventh grade classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life." It seemed like an interesting YA novel about existentialism. When I started reading however, what I had in my hands was a macabre story–still about existentialism–which was very much a coed Lord of the Flies; it was perfect. These kids were left completely unsupervised and left holding a question much bigger than they could fathom. They didn't know when they set out that meaning was a very hard thing to pin down. They did horrible, terrible things in their quest to find meaning for life. If Pierre Anthon wasn't yelling absurdist things at them from the plum tree would they have been driven to such lengths? Possibly not, but something still might have set them off. As soon as one person added something to the heap they were out for blood for the next person. The next person had to give up something much worse, so that the first person's loss didn't seem as devastating. This was a much more brief read than Lord of the Flies, but every bit as pertinent. I think this could be taught right alongside the greats in a high school English class. 

First Line:
"Nothing matters."

Favorite Line:
"Something in Hussain seemed to have been destroyed."


  1. WOW, well written as the greats. Now thats a read I need

  2. This sounds good and I want to read it now! Great review :)

  3. This sounds amazing! I've never even heard of it...fabulous review, Britt! :)

  4. I haven't heard anything about this book, but I remember seeing it a while back and being interested. Now, I feel like I MUST read it. You gave it some seriously high praise, so I'll be looking for this one at my library now.

  5. The first time I heard about Nothing was during a booktalking class. The librarian doing the talk LOVED this book and just gushed about it. I thought it sounded rather grim. But, hmm, a coed Lord of the Flies...that does sound like something that would interest a lot of teens.


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