Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book 45 - Nothing by Janne Teller - Taering, Denmark

I read this book almost in one sitting. It is hard to put down once you have started. The book blurb announced this was "The Lord of the Flies" for the 21st century and that is stunningly accurate. 

"Nothing matters," announces 12 year old Pierre Anthony and with that he leaves his classroom, climbs a tree in the school yard and refuses to come down. His classmates see this as an enormous challenge to their well being and futures so they decide to persuade him to come down. After pelting him with stones doesn't work they decide to address the notion of what it is that "matters". If they can show Pierre Anthony that something does matter then he has to change his mind and come down out of the tree.

They start to bring things to an old unused saw mill to collect the things that matter. Then they realise that people are holding back. One by one they challenge each other to bring the things that matter most into the saw mill. A pair of new sandals, a bicycle, a hamster and slowly as the pile grows the challenges become more and more extreme. The pile certainly takes on meaning to them but will it ever be enough for Pierre Anthony?

This book is very disturbing. It explores extremes of peer pressure and secrecy. It asks what is meaning and what is nothing? This book has won awards AND been banned in some countries. How can a book about children's search for meaning provoke such extremes? The content is very gritty. I wonder who I can recommend this to?

New York Public Library review says this is one of the darkest books for Young People ever and I do not disagree.