Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BR: Nothing

by Janne Teller
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.

Summary (goodreads):

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

Nothing matters.
I have known that for a long time.
So nothing is worth doing.
I just realized that.

My Thoughts

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
Acknowledgements: 2.5/5

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.

source: library
other reviews: Steph Su


  1. I haven't heard of this before. I don't mind a dark and thought provoking read. Definitely adding this to my wishlist. Great review :)

  2. I love books that makes you go "what the hell?!" Sounds like my kind of story! Great review!

  3. I had this on my TBR shelf one time but then picked it up and flipped to a random page in a book store and it was to disturbing so I moved on and never added it back on

    nice review though

  4. I thought this one was really thought-provoking as well. The whole "one of a group" mentality is conveyed quite nicely (which I think necessitates the reader knowing less about the narrator, unfortunately). I actually liked it a lot more than Lord of the Flies (well, maybe "liked" isn't the right word, LOL) — I thought it spoke to a variety of philosophical issues in a way that had a less clear-cut message (Lord of the Flies always seemed rather pointed to me!) Great to see this book getting some coverage on your blog, I think it's very overlooked for a Printz honour book!

  5. Nic- awesome, thanks :)

    Nomes= yay ;)

    Skye- this was definitey one of those books!

    kate- aw that's too bad, but oh well. there's too many books out there ;)

    danya- I was thinking about it after to see if I did like it more than LOTF (i'm one of those weird kids who likes school=-assigned books) and I think it's really close. I like this one because, like you mentioned, there was the philosophical aspect of it rather than just pure savagery, which I really enjoyed. And the ending of this was pretty ambiguous, which I also really liked. Anyways, thanks for stopping by =)

  6. I'm sold! Dark WTF-ery and a book about nothing? Reminds me of a show about nothing... Seinfeld! Though you were just a baby when it was popular it was my favorite. hehehe

    Okay, I like to challenge myself to the same types of lists, so I think I will try this one Audrey.

  7. This sounds pretty good I think I've heard of it before, but I'm not quite sure... I think when I last looked it up, I had a hard time finding a place that sold it since it is a Danish book. :/ Still, Printz award alone tells me its worth my time. I loved Lord of the Flies as well....

    I'll definitely keep an eye out for this book. Thanks for the review.

  8. Missie- haha, I love Seinfeld! That's great, I feel this is a different kind of YA, which is why it's great :)

    Cialina- Ooh, if you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, I really think you'd like this one :) thanks for the comment!


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