Saturday, January 15, 2011

Nothing by Janne Teller

In a small Danish town, a 7th grader stands up and declares "Nothing Matters".  He walks out of school, and takes up residence in the plum tree outside his house, shouting and throwing plums at his classmates as they go to and from school.

In order to prove him wrong, the class decides to build a pile of meaning in an old sawmill.  All is well, until the classmates start choosing what each will give up.  Although the sacrifices start small -- favorite books, special shoes -- they grow and grow to monstrous proportions.

A co-worker recommended this book to me -- no, that's not right.  She didn't recommend it, she told me it was amazing, and completely devastating to read.  She said it was the best book of 2010, but she would never read it again.

With a pitch like that, how could I resist?

Well, she was right.  This is an astounding book, that I will never, ever, ever re-read.   Nothing reminds me of The Chocolate War or any number of books by Adam Rapp -- a beautifully crafted, extraordinary novel that makes you want to give it all up and meditate on a cliff, or I suppose, in a plum tree.

When I first started the novel, I wondered about the cold, almost mechanical voice of the narrator Agnes.  However, as events unfold, we learn what made Agnes' voice, and it makes perfect sense.

Do I recommend Nothing? No, in fact, I have a hard time envisioning the teen I would hand this book to.  But I commend Teller for creating a haunting, extreme yet believable tale that will stay with the reader for a long time.  

No comments:

Post a Comment