Nothing

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

I bet when you saw the title of this post, you questioned it, right?  This book is literally called Nothing.  I’ve had this on my to-read list for quite some time because it sounded different.  Originally published in Danish in 2000, it was translated to English in 2010.  That in itself is interesting enough to get my attention.

Ever since Pierre Anthon realized that nothing mattered, he hasn’t come down from the plum tree in his front yard.  His classmates, all seventh graders, are intent on getting him to come down.  To prove to Pierre Anthon that there is meaning in live, his classmates set out to collect things of importance in their lives.  The pile starts with superficial things: a favorite fishing rod, a new pair of shoes.  But as the kids get more desperate to get Pierre Anthon out of the tree, their sacrifices become more extreme, even morbid.  How far are they willing to go to show that their lives actually mean something?

Before I even started this book, I saw a lot of people comparing this to Lord of the Flies.  Which I’ve never read, but I guess makes sense given what I know of it.

I really had a hard time reading this.  It’s actually really easy to read language-wise, given that it’s for ages 12 and up.  However, it deals with some highly disturbing things.  It could possibly be because I’m sensitive about some of it, but everyone I told about this book gave me the same reaction.  So I don’t think it’s just me.  These kids commit an ungodly number of felonies and crimes to get some of these things on the pile.  Seriously, just about everything that goes on after the superficial things involves a criminal act.  These are 13-14 year olds we’re talking about.

Once I neared the end of the book, I started to realize that this felt like the mentality of a cult.  Many times, there would be outrage at one of the things they wanted to put on the pile.  Screaming, crying, fights.  Yet they still managed to rationalize why they needed to put that item on the pile.  It was horribly rational insanity.

It wasn’t just the disturbing stuff that bothered me.  While it was pretty easy to understand and read, I think some of the lyrical qualities were lost in translation.  Things felt abrupt at times and a couple of the translations seemed weird.  For example, one character is referred to as “lady William”.  I think it’s supposed to be like laddie, the Scottish way of referring to a boy, rather than pronouncing it as lady, like a woman.  There was nothing in the story to support either pronunciation, though.

Also, this story is barely over 200 short pages.  There were way too many characters for this short of a story.  Way too many.  It’s a whole class of kids, so there are about 20-25 kids we’re trying to keep track of.  Breaking that down, that’s about 10 pages per kid, but they don’t get even that much time.

Otherwise, there were just a few plot holes or things I just wasn’t happy about.  For all these crimes the kids have committed, they get less than a slap on the wrist for it.  I don’t understand why that’s the case.

Overall, I just thought this book was too disturbing and had too many holes to be very good.

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