Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Nothing by Janne Teller

Tags: YA, philosophy, existentialism, mob mentality, Danish lit


When Pierre Anthon randomly climbs up into a tree one day and refuses to come down, shouting that life is meaningless, everything means nothing, his classmates are seriously concerned. They can’t bear to listen to his harsh words any longer, and so they devise a plan, to build a giant heap of meaning to show Pierre Anthon and shut him up.

They soon realize, however, that none of them are exactly willing to give up things that truly mean something to them. So they start deciding for one another what each of them must give up. But little can they predict the shocking turn that their plan takes…


NOTHING, originally published in Danish, is stunning, disturbing. It lingers in your mind and makes you think the way haunting montages of unpleasant moments in history do.

NOTHING is published as YA, but despite the fact that seventh graders make up most of the characters, this book requires a strong sense of maturity and open-mindedness in order to be the best appreciated. It is not an easy read: few of the characters ever manifest themselves into memorable individuals, but as a collective, their actions and the changes their group mentality undergo are profoundly unsettling. NOTHING touches upon philosophy (Pierre Anthon’s cries of nothingness) and masochism (the things they force one another to do or give up) in a way that both enthralls you and forces you to think about serious philosophical themes.

This is a small book, but it is by no means light. Janne Teller’s writing is powerful and memorable in its sparseness. She lets the children’s horrifying actions unfold and create the book’s chilling atmosphere themselves, keeping authorial interventions of description to a minimum. If you’re looking for something dark, unusual, and thought-provoking, I can’t recommend this book to you enough. It is unlike anything out there and is simply remarkable.

Similar Authors
Julie Anne Peters
Jostein Gaarder (Sophie's World)
William Golding (Lord of the Flies)

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - I think the desaturation plus the colored splotches together are striking.

Atheneum / Feb. 9, 2010 / Hardcover / 227pp. / $16.99

First came to my attention via Kate Messner's review on Goodreads; copy borrowed from library.

(Also, John Green likes this book. As if you need more reasons to read it now.)


  1. This is the first time I have seen this title, but your review has definitely piqued by interest. I like books that have strong themes and make me ponder deeper meanings. Great review. Thanks.

  2. This sounds AMAZING. Have you heard of Flipped? They have a scene where the girl sits in a tree. I loved that scene. This sounds beautiful.

  3. Sounds interesting, I'm adding it to my list. Thanks!

  4. . . . just the summary sounds terrifying to me.

  5. WOW. I have never heard of this book before. It sounds very interesting yet from reading your review, it seems Haunting. I think i am going to add this to my to-read list.

    Great review!

  6. The books sounds intriguing! I wonder whether it will be available where I live.
    I just started my own blog. Please stop by if you can. Thank you


  7. ooooh - I'm so liking the sound of this one.

    Exactly the kind of suspense and psychological stuff I like to see going down in a book.

  8. Superb review! I've not heard of this book before it sounds poignant.


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