Summary and book reviews of The Gospel According To Larry by Janet Tashjian

The Gospel According To Larry

by Janet Tashjian

The Gospel According To Larry
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2001, 227 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 256 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

A funny, thoughtful novel that takes on some sophisticated issues such as celebrity worship, consumerism and the way multinational corporations shape our lives. Ages 12-up.

Josh Swensen is not your average 17-year-old. At the age of two, he was figuring out algebraic equations with colored magnetic numbers. He is a prodigy who only wants to make the world a better place. Josh’s wish comes true when his virtual alter ego, Larry, becomes a huge media sensation. Larry has his own Web site where he posts sermons on anti-consumerism and has a large following of adults and teens. Meanwhile, Larry’s identity is a mystery to everyone. While it seems as if the whole world is trying to figure out Larry’s true identity, Josh feels trapped inside his own creation. What will happen to the world, and to Larry, if he is exposed?

Part One

"I haven’t enjoyed a rant this much since Thoreau," Beth said. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things."

My best friend, Beth, was trying to talk me into forming a Larry study group with her. His Web site - www.thegospelaccordingtolarry.com - received hundreds of hits a day, mostly from teens and college students. No one knew Larry’s identity, and that conjecture alone was the source of several companion Web sites. Many kids at school were fans, but Beth was rabid.

"Josh, I know neither one of us has ever joined a club in our life," she said. "But that’s precisely why we should."

I tried to listen to the details of her story, I really did, but there is something about Beth’s mouth that gets in the way of paying attention to its contents. She often wore a certain brown lipstick and outlined the edges of her lips with this pencil she carried in her bag. Every time she talked, it was like this pale chocolate snowcone staring up at ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In his quest to be antimaterialistic, Josh has just seventy-five possessions, including shirts, shoes, keys, books, CDs, and underwear. If you had to limit the things you own to seventy-five items, what would they be?

  2. Josh states, “I've only wanted one thing in my life–to contribute, to help make the world a better place . . . not with technology, but with ideas.” Is Josh true to his vision?

  3. Is the way Josh/Larry manipulates his followers any different from the way the media, big business, or politicians manipulate the public?

  4. Josh steals confidential documents from Peter’s briefcase in order to attack the companies his stepfather represents. Is he right to do this? Does the end justify the means...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

VOYA - Lynn Evarts

This story will speak clearly to many teens looking to create their own place in the world—those who have not been able to make their mark as jocks or cheerleaders or even geeks in the rough world of high school cliques. Josh's rocket to anonymous fame is a fantasy for many teens today. Tashjian skillfully uses humor and provides one of the most honest voices in young adult literature since Steve York in Rob Thomas's Rats Saw God ...Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses. Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12.

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick

The framing device, in which the writer pretends that Josh gave her the text, is unnecessary, but aside from that this is an outstanding YA novel. Tashjian, the author of Tru Confessions and Multiple Choice, has penned a real winner here. —Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students.

Publishers Weekly

[This] funny, thoughtful novel takes on some sophisticated issues.... Tashjian not only gives readers a good primer on materialism (and Thoreau), she also makes them think about a different kind of activism. Ages 12-up.

Children's Literature - Norah Piehl

The plot sometimes walks just this side of absurdity, and some figures (like Josh's advertising executive stepfather) are conveniences rather than developed characters. However, Josh's story, and particularly Larry's sermons, are excellent starting points for discussion, and may even inspire teens on their own path to political activism.

School Library Journal - Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Gr 8 Up. Josh is bright, articulate, idealistic, and in love with Beth, the girl next door and his best friend since sixth grade. Afraid to declare himself-especially in light of Beth's flirtations with a socially connected but intellectually suspect football player-he pours his energy into a clever Web site, through which his alter ego, Larry, advocates introspection, tolerance, and anticonsumerism....A terrific read with a credible and lovable main character.

Booklist - Ilene Cooper

Starred Review. Gr. 7-10. Tashjian does something very fresh here, which will hit teens at a visceral level. She takes the natural idealism young people feel, personalizes it in the character of Josh/Larry, and shows that idealism transformed by unintended consequences. The book's frank discussion about topics paramount to kids--celebrity worship, consumerism, and the way multinational corporations shape our lives--is immediate, insightful, and made even more vivid because it's wrapped in the mystery of Larry.

Kirkus Reviews

Tashjian's inventive story is a thrilling read, fast-paced with much fast food for thought about our consumer-oriented pop culture. A parallel narrative about Beth, Josh's childhood friend and secret love, works nicely, too. The voice is clear, the ending satisfying. Teenagers will eat this one up.

Reader Reviews

matt

Is it real?
I really liked the book, and read it a second time for school, but I really wonder if the whole thing about it being real is a hoax. If so, it was a well done one, i went on thegospelaccordingtolarry.com the other day for school research and found a...   Read More

cody

the gospel according to larry
What I want to know is were these events true, I've been to the web site but I think it would be hard to pull this whole thing to be fake so I think it is based on a real story.

Flor

is it a true story or not?
I think this book is awesome, but I don't understand if it is true or not, the author says that Josh himself gave her the story to write but maybe she just made that up. I loved the book though, I found it very interesting. I am 14 years old going to...   Read More

Joanna

Just read this...
I just read this book and I must say that I was gripped. It was extremely well written in quite a quirky style and I enjoyed every moment of it - but I did find the ending very anti-climatic. I, too, am confused as to whether it was non-fiction or...   Read More

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