translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken
I will admit, the one and only reason I read this book was because it was a Printz honour, and I'm doing this little personal challenge where I read all 5 of them.
Nothing is the Lord of the Flies for the 21st century 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 class mates set out on a desperate quest for the meaning of life. This involves a closed saw mill, green sandals, a yellow bicycle, a pair of boxing gloves, the Danish flag, the hamster Oscarlittle, a Jesus statue stolen from the church, little Ingrid’s crutches, six blue ponytails, a prayer rug, the coffin with Elise’s little brother, the head of the dog Cindarella, fame and a meaning found and lost and ..
My Expectations: Not too high, I wasn't really sure what to expect to be honest.
Delivery: I'm impressed, though I have this.. queasy feeling after finishing.
Put-down-ability: slow start, 6/10
I have known that for a long time.
So nothing is worth doing.
I just realized that.
Nothing’s pemise is simple enough. Pierre Anthon mocks his classmates (13-14 year olds) about the meaningless of life, of how everything is nothing, and how nothing matters. Of course, the children set out to prove him wrong, to prove that they can build a pile of meaningful things. This is just the beginning…
This book is weird. It’s excellent in a twisted sort of manner because it mashes innate human emotions and philosophical ponderings to deliver a shocking and ultimately, enthralling read.
The beginning was slow for me, and didn’t really pick up until maybe a third of the way through when the stakes began to rise. From then on as my jaw dropped over and over again (not a metaphor) this novel escalates to the finish line (with my eyes glued to the page). I was definitely reminded of Lord of the Flies, but in contrast, it feels like these characters, children, descend into some form of savage masochistic society right in the middle of a civilized town with their parents present and everything. There were more than a few surprising (disturbing!) moments, but I’ll have to let you find out what they are.
The writing is translated from Danish, but I still liked it. Despite being somewhat disengaging at the beginning, I eventually bought into the style, and I was especially fond of single-sentences-on-a-page. Lastly, the characters shape the book, and each character is carefully developed as the plot progresses. I do wish I felt more for the narrator, but it was also part of the aura with the narrator, Agnes, being 'part of the mob' as opposed to an outsider. I was very, very impressed with these aspects of the book.
Nothing is a fascinating novel that not only questions the meaning of life, but includes all the WTF-ery that comes with it. Haha, that blurb really doesn’t really send the right message… it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I liked this darkly morbid book, I just did. And I would definitely advise you not to miss out on this underappreciated gem :)
Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: All readers of all 13+ ages
8.5/10 – because I was surprised by how good it was. It started out mehh, but as the stakes got higher and these kids started doing some crazy shizz, I just became immersed in this provocative tale. It will surprise you, and it will stay with you long after you’re done.
other reviews: Steph Su