review by Maryom
One day Pierre Anthon stands up in class and declares that nothing matters so nothing's worth doing and walks out. His school friends aren't amused by this. After all, they've always been told that schoolwork is important if you want to amount to something - and they do! They're even less pleased when Pierre Anthon decides that in future he'll sit up the plum tree in his front garden and heckle his friends about the futility of everything as they pass on their way to school. His friends feel the very foundations of their world slipping and set out to prove he's wrong and that some things do matter and do have value. They set out to collect things that have meaning for them in the belief that when they confront Pierre Anthon with them, he'll have to acknowledge that he is wrong. The pile starts innocently enough- old photographs and outgrown baby clothes from the neighbours; an old doll, a battered hymn book, a fishing rod of their own - but they soon realise that these aren't really the things that matter the most and that something more is called for....
There's always a risk that a book that you've clammered and begged for to review will fall flat and so after a lot of fuss I found myself starting to read Nothing just a little cautiously. I needn't have worried. I won't claim to have been hooked from the first page but from a small number in when Pierre Anthon packs his bag, leaves the classroom and the gaping door behind him smiles - that's where I was hooked.
I'd say this was a disturbing and thought-provoking book - but that seems rather too trite a comment. Pierre Anthon's attitude challenges what most of us would feel. If we start believing that nothing is of value, where will we end up? - this is the abyss that opens in front of his classmates - and the reader. His constant declaration that nothing has meaning reminded me of Renton's opening speech from Trainspotting "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family......But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else", but Renton's "something else" stops him asking about the meaning of life: Pierre Anthon is offering no such quick fix. More disturbing are the lengths his friends go to to prove him wrong...
Nothing is definitely a book that asks far more questions than it answers. It's not an easy, comfortable read but one to make you squirm or cover your eyes in horror. A very dark book but one I'd wholeheartedly recommend for teens looking for something beyond entertainment in their reading.
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Strident
Genre - teen/YA fiction
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