Book review: Nothing by Janne Teller

So this is a book about a group of children/teenagers (I think they’re 12-14ish) and their pursuit to find meaning. One day this kid stands up in the middle of class and declares that life is pointless and nothing has meaning and we all die in the end and don’t leave any impact at all. He then sits in a plum tree and assaults the rest of his classmates by yelling this at them and throwing plums and plum pits. They decide to show him that there is meaning in like by making the Pile of Meaning. They decide that they each have to put something in the pile. It starts out fairly innocently. Then, the rule becomes “whoever put something in gets to choose who puts what in next.” As the kids have to put in more and more meaningful things in, they want others to do the same. Soon enough, it turns violent.

5/5 stars

This is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It was also one of the hardest and most frustrating. I talked aloud to the book. I would literally turn my Kindle off, close the cover, set it down for a minute, and breathe. Then I would pick it back up and continue reading. My brother stayed up almost the entire night reading after I told him to read it. It sucks you in. It’s slightly disturbing in some spots, so keep that in mind.

It really makes you think about what is meaningful and how far you would go to make a point. It’s one of those books that made me rethink parts of my life. Would I do what those kids do? Would I put myself through that? I’d like to think that for some of it I’d refuse, but I also know how much of a wimp I am and think maybe I wouldn’t and I’d just go with what everyone else was doing. Some of the things the kids insist on going in the pile are ridiculous. Some of it is illegal. Some of it is sacrilegious. A lot of are things you just don’t ask for. Some is all of these things. It’s insane. And what would I put in? What has that much meaning to me that I would want that much revenge on someone?

As someone majoring in psychology, it is also a fascinating exploration into group think. I’m not sure whether that was intended by Teller, but it’s so interesting to look at it through a psychology lens.

The book is translated from Dutch (I believe) which makes it easy to read language-wise. Knowing that also helps to put some things in context, so keep that in mind. In Chapters here in Canada, it’s in the “ages 9-12” section, mainly for the reason that it’s simple language I think, but don’t believe that. My little sister is 12 and we’re not letting her read it until she’s at least 16. It is way too disturbing for a 9-12 year old, honestly. So if you see it in that section, don’t overlook it.

I would recommend it to older readers. I got it for my grade 11 English teacher for Christmas and she gave it to her friend who runs a book club for older men, so I think it really appeals to that age group. Like I mentioned above, I think you should be at least 16 to read it. But I think everyone should read it at least once in their life.

Give it a go and let me know what you think! And let me know what you would’ve done in the same situation, because I genuinely don’t know.

Thanks for reading!
Ally xx

8 thoughts on “Book review: Nothing by Janne Teller

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