Monday, October 21, 2013

Book of choice: Nothing

Nothing has any meaning. And so nothing is worth doing. On the first day of school after summer, Pierre Anthon leaves his class with those words. His classmates are flabbergasted at first, then angry when Pierre Anthon keeps insisting that nothing they do or will do can have any meaning. After a while, his conviction gets to them and they decide to show him that things can have meaning. They start to gather up everything they think has meaning, but their first collection of old photos, keepsakes and discarded favourite things doesn't even convince themselves. The class starts gathering things that are not that easy to give up to make a mountain of meaning that surely must shut up Pierre Anthon - and their own doubts.

Some stories are like a train speeding towards a burning bridge. You just know that this is not going to end well, but you cannot stop reading. Nothing by Janne Teller is like that and it's not an easy book to read, but one that is very much worth reading. Just be prepared for it to stay with you far longer than it actually takes to read.

The book has been banned for a short time in Teller's native country Denmark, citing too much violence and the possibility that teenagers might become depressed and even suicidal after reading it. There is very little actual violence and while the story is very dark, I think teenagers should be given more credit regarding what they can and cannot deal with. Incidentally, Nothing is in the good company of Anne Frank's diary when it comes to getting banned for being too depressing to read. An argument I find rather ridiculous - unless you plan to leave your kid totally alone with what she has read. And then the problem is not the book.

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