Nothing, by Janne Teller

Danish author, Janne Teller has written a very interesting book that for me was hard to get into. It is marketed to teens but can be easily read by adults because some of the philosophical aspects, mainly about the purpose of life, are thought-provoking. The story is self-described as a modern day Lord of the Flies.Nothing” is set in Denmark, in a fictional place called “Tæring” which is said to be a verb that means “to corrode or eat through.” Students try to prove “the meaning of life” to one of their classmates who says life has no purpose or meaning.

The narrative is told in first person through Agnes, a seventh grader. Her first pov is told in a rather cold and detached way. Clearly I never did warm up to her character or any of the others in fact. The story begins with Pierre Anthon suddenly realizing that “nothing matters.” He leaves school to sit up in his plum tree because to him, “nothing is worth the bother.”

The plot starts off innocently enough with the students at first trying to ignore Pierre’s taunts that life is worthless, love means nothing, etc while he sits in his plum tree that’s on their route to school everyday. His thoughts/statements makes an impact as it insidiously works its way into the minds of the other students. Agnes and the rest of her classmates feel that they must counter his statements and PROVE to Pierre that life does have meaning. Eventually, the students decide to get together and devise a plan to meet secretly at an old unused sawmill on the outskirts of town. The goal is to give something to sacrifice that has meaning to each of them. Continue reading