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Nothing Hardcover – February 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—On the first day of seventh grade, Pierre Anthon announces that life has no meaning and walks out of school. Everything, he has concluded, is a useless step toward death. Pierre's shaken classmates scramble to prove him wrong. They begin to assemble a "heap of meaning" in an abandoned sawmill. Each child must add a possession of the others' choosing. The children's need to avenge their losses spins out of control. A Muslim boy gives up his prayer mat and spirals into a crisis of faith. Another child must contribute the head of a beloved dog. A boy demands a girl's innocence. That girl demands something even more unthinkable. This story is horrifying, and draws obvious comparison to William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954). Despite the somewhat-idyllic provincial setting, the total lack of parental supervision is hard to swallow. Agnes, the narrator, is increasingly matter-of-fact as the horrors escalate, and this tempers the emotional impact of the story. This narrative distance also impedes character development; even Agnes remains unknowable. Her methodical telling sets a lulling pace, though, which sets the shocking events in high relief. The author writes sparely, even simplistically, and some chapters are only the narrator's haikulike commentary. Danish kids apparently love a good existential discussion, but the group's circular debates may bore and/or confuse American middle schoolers.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Indelible, elusive, and timeless, this uncompromising novel has all the marks of a classic. A group of Danish seventh-graders have their insulated suburban world jolted when classmate Pierre Anthon stands up and announces, “Nothing matters.” He promptly takes up residence in a plum tree and creates an existential crisis among the group with his daily reports on the pointlessness of life. Feeling a need to refute the alarming notion, the kids decide to assemble a pile of objects that will prove Pierre Anthon wrong. It starts simply: Agnes gives up her favorite shoes; Dennis, his beloved books. But as each sacrifice grows in intensity, each kid enacts revenge by demanding an ever-greater sacrifice from the next. With chilling rapidity, the “heap of meaning,” which they keep stored in an abandoned sawmill, is towering with gut-wrenching artifacts of their loss of innocence—if innocence is something that ever existed. Teller offers just enough character detail to make the suffering and cruelty palpable. The terse purposefulness of her prose may put off some readers, but that singularity is also what will endure the test of time. Already a multiple award winner overseas, this is an unforgettable treatise on the fleeting and mutable nature of meaning. Grades 7-12. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1000L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416985794
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416985792
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By S. Su on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
NOTHING, originally published in Danish, is stunning, disturbing. It lingers in your mind and makes you think the way haunting montages of unpleasant moments in history do.

NOTHING is published as YA, but despite the fact that seventh graders make up most of the characters, this book requires a strong sense of maturity and open-mindedness in order to be the most appreciated. It is not an easy read: few of the characters ever manifest themselves into memorable individuals, but as a collective, their actions and the changes their group mentality undergo are profoundly unsettling. NOTHING touches upon philosophy (Pierre Anthon's cries of nothingness) and masochism (the things they force one another to do or give up) in a way that both enthralls you and forces you to think about serious philosophical themes.

This is a small book, but it is by no means light. Janne Teller's writing is powerful and memorable in its sparseness. She lets the children's horrifying actions unfold and create the book's chilling atmosphere themselves, keeping authorial interventions of description to a minimum. If you're looking for something dark, unusual, and thought-provoking, I can't recommend this book to you enough. It is unlike anything out there and is simply remarkable.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By K. H. Callahan on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The inside cover refers to this novel as "Lord of the Flies of the 21st century." How apt. Expect to be shocked and disturbed as you were the first time you read Lord of the Flies. While I'm glad I read this and enjoyed the provocative thoughts behind the story, I'm concerned about young people picking this up and reading it without some kind of adult to help them find their own Heap of Meaning in this book. I think it would give my 12-year-old daughter nightmares. Based on content, and truly appreciating the message of this book, I'd suggest it is appropriate for 16+. It's a great read for adults.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Maurer on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My Thoughts

Here I am one week after reading and finishing this novel finally typing up a review. I have not been able to actually take time to write about this novel because it was haunting my mind. It would not leave me. I was and in many ways still am speechless about this novel.

This is a deep read. It takes a mature reader or one who has a broad perspective of the world and events to grasp many things talked about in the novel. It is one where at first I was thinking, "Oh man, this is just going to be a boring story about some kids that all turns out happy in the end.". I was so completely wrong and am still not sure how to describe my thoughts.

It is a philosophical read in the sense that it challenges your outlook on life because even though I disagree with Pierre in nothing matters it was hard to argue his rationale many times throughout this story and even now. I am not negative or depressed, but I had to stop several times and ponder what I was reading.

It also has a Lord of the Flies vibe to it in the actions of the other kids who are trying to prove worth in the world by sacrificing things important to them.

Okay, take my word for it that you need to read this book. It will challenge every thought you currently have and in a good way. This book is not for the faint of heart. There are some scenes that are brutal and honest so be aware of this.

This just barely touches the surface of the thoughts that I have, but not sure how else to explain. Read and let me know your thoughts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lawral Wornek on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Disturbing does not even begin to cover it.

Nothing is a tiny book. It's shorter than most and more narrow. The story takes up slightly more than 200 pages, and those pages contain a lot of white space. Still, it is probably the most disturbing book I've ever read. And almost not even in a good way. Don't get me wrong, Nothing is a wonderfully written book. Not a single word is superfluous and yet the story feels expansive. We see the whole thing from Agnes' point of view, and yet the feelings of others and the crowd mentality of the group are clear. It's got a kind of terrible, terrifying beauty to it.

As Agnes and her classmates try to collect things to counter Pierre Anthon's nothingness, things take a definite turn towards the sinister. If they're going to prove meaning, these things must really mean something to the person who has to give them up. And each time someone has to give something up, they get to choose what the next person has to lose. This accumulation of things starts out as mean and a bit vindictive, but it very quickly spirals out of control until it is not just things that are being accumulated. Friendships break up, kids get in trouble, alliances are formed, and people get both emotionally and physically hurt.

Watching what these kids require of their friends and classmates, what they deam worthy sacrifices to the "heap of meaning," was like driving past a multiple car pile-up on the freeway. It's gruesome and terrible, but you can't help but look. I finished this book in a single day, holding my hand over my gaping mouth for the last 50 pages or so (and more than a few times before that as well). I was repulsed and hooked at the same time. This is an engrossing and haunting read.

Book source: Philly Free Library
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