Nothing by Janne Teller translated from Danish by Martin Aitken
Published: 2010 - Atheneum (originally published in 2000)
Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Date Read: June 28, 2012
3 out of 5 Stars: It was good/baffling/disturbing/too hard to categorize
Reason for Reading: The text on the jacket flap (see below) completely got to me. It sounded so interesting that I had to find out if the children in the book ever proved that there is meaning in life or not.
On GoodReads: "Pierre Anthon left school the day he found out that it was not worth doing anything as nothing mattered anyhow. The rest of us stayed behind. And even though the teachers carefully cleared up after Pierre Anthon in the class room as well as in our heads, a bit of Pierre Anthon remained within us. Perhaps this is why things later happened the way they did...
Thus begins the story of Pierre Anthon, a thirteen year old boy, who leaves school to sit in a plum tree and train for becoming part of nothing. "Everything begins just in order to end. The moment you were born you began to die, and that goes for everything else as well." Pierre Anthon shouts and continues: "The whole thing is just one immense play which is about pretending and about being best at exactly that."
Scared at the prospects that Pierre Anthon throws at them together with the ripening plums, his seventh grade classmates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life. Nothing they do will make him come down, not even pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance. The pile starts with the superficial—a fishing rod, a new pair of shoes. But as the sacrifices become more extreme, the students grow increasingly desperate to get Pierre Anthon down, to justify their belief in meaning.
My Thoughts: My feelings for this book are so hard to put into words. I really enjoyed the writing, though I could often tell where the translation from Danish to English was a little off, and I liked the idea of meaning and wondering what has meaning in the world and what makes life worth living and things worth doing. As the children in this story begin to demand what each other must give up and put into the "heap of meaning," the demands became more and more disturbing. What started with some books, shoes, and a fishing rod, ends up with a coffin, Jesus on the Cross, and other, even more disturbing, items that involve criminal behavior to retrieve. I am still thinking through this book. It was so baffling and strange, but also really well done.
Recommended To: Anyone up for a really strange, disturbing read. And someone with a strong stomach.
Quote From The Book: "How come everyone's making like everything that isn't important is very important, all the while they're so busy pretending what's really important isn't important at all?"
Books Read This Year: 52 of 100
Currently Reading: Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer