"From the moment you are born, you start to die."
"The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. You'll live to be a maximum of one hundred. Life isn't worth the bother!"
So says Pierre Anthon when he decides that there is no meaning to life, leaves the classroom, climbs a plum tree, and stays there.
His friends and classmates cannot get him to come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to him that there is a meaning to life, they set out to build a heap of meaning in an abandoned sawmill.
But it soon becomes obvious that each person cannot give up what is most meaningful, so they begin to decide for one another what the others must give up. The pile is started with a lifetime's collection of Dungeons & Dragons books, a fishing rod, a pair of green sandals, a pet hamster - but then, as each demand becomes more extreme, things start taking a very morbid twist, and the kids become ever more desperate to get Pierre Anthon down. And what if, after all these sacrifices, the pile is not meaningful enough?
A Lord of the Flies for the twenty-first century, Nothing is a visionary existential novel - about everything, and nothing - that will haunt you.
I have known that for a long time.
So nothing is worth doing.
I just realized that.
Pierre Anthon left school the day he realized that nothing was worth doing, because nothing meant anything anyway.
The rest of us stayed on.
And although the teachers had a job on their hands tidying up after Pierre Anthon in the classroom as well as in our heads, part of Pierre Anthon remained stuck inside of us. Maybe that was why it all turned out the way it did.
It was the second week of August. The sun was heavy, making us slow and irritable, the tarmac caught on the soles of our sneakers, and apples and pears were just ripe enough to lie snugly in the hand, the perfect missiles. We looked neither left nor right. It was the first day of school after summer vacation. The classroom smelled of detergent and weeks of emptiness, the windows reflected clear and bright, and the blackboard was yet to be blanketed with chalk dust. The desks stood two by two in rows as ...
I have not been able to stop talking about Nothing since I read it (twice) before writing this review. It's ready-made for book club or classroom discussions, and it's guaranteed to provide (forgive me) food for thought long after you have finished reading...
Nothing delves deep into philosophical territory in a way that few modern fiction novels (especially YA novels) do. Within this tale we find themes of nihilism and existentialism, materialism, and fear of nonconformity. Teller makes us think about how we are able to face the reality of death, and still manage to find meaning in life (whether one is religious or not). Most importantly, it asks: what creates "meaning?" I'll warn you that it doesn't answer all of these questions, but this is a good thing for thoughtful readers.
(Reviewed by Cindy Anderson).
Full Review (1187 words).
Although Nothing's protagonist, Pierre, seems to withdraw from the world, he is not necessarily a nihilist (one who believes in nothing). When he tells the other children he is "contemplating the sky, and getting used to doing nothing," and urges them to "enjoy the nothing that is," his attitude is reminiscent of the French novelist and philosopher Albert Camus. Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche both found some rationale for living inspite of the inevitability of death and the absence (in their view) of an afterlife. Trying to find a way to live life in spite of the emptiness he perceives, Pierre watches with disappointment from his plum tree at his friends who seek meaning in the world of objects (literally, in a pile of objects), rather than ...
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