The Gospel According to Larry
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|Cover artist||Liney Li|
|Series||First in the series|
|Genre||Comedic, Political, Non-fictional, Romance novel|
|Publisher||Henry Holt and Co.|
|October 1, 2001|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Vote for Larry|
The Gospel According to Larry is a "coming of age" political, romantic teen novel by Janet Tashjian that explores anti-consumerism. The introduction of the book is written from a point of view that makes it seem as though Josh Swensen is real and Janet Tashjian is simply the one who edited and published it. This quality gives the book a non-fiction feel.
The Gospel According to Larry revolves around seventeen-year-old Josh Swenson, an articulate teen whose dream is to change the world. He creates his own website which he calls "The Gospel According to Larry" because Larry was the most un-biblical name he could think of. He writes articles on this site "preaching" his feelings and ideas about making the world a better place.
At first he does not get many hits until someone writes an article about him in a local newspaper and the number of hits begins to grow. That is when he decides to start photographing and posting his possessions. He was curious to see if it was possible to track down someone anywhere in the world simply by their possessions.
Josh only has 75 possessions counting all clothes, underwear, school supplies, recreational equipment, software and the keys to his step-father's house. He has a list of guidelines to keep track of how many possessions he has. If he wants a new CD, or book, or video he has to sell an old one or trade it. A notebook counts as one even though it has 70 sheets of paper in it. A pair of socks counts as one and so do shoes. He decided to start doing this after reading about Native Americans who did not want to leave a "footprint" behind. This means every purchase is a major decision and he takes it very seriously.
Not everyone is happy with his blog. A poster named betagold does not like the fact that Josh is hiding behind a screen name. She threatens to find him out, no matter what he does to hide himself. She even notices little things that he speaks of that she figures point to where he lives, such as Red Maples which grow in the New England area.
Things really take off when U2's lead singer Bono takes an interest in the site causing much more publicity. Soon after Bono decides to host a giant rock festival called Larryfest where all of the bands would play for free and all companies would sell food and drink at cost.
After the festival Josh is at home when an older woman knocks on his door. It is Tracy Hawthorne, also known as betagold. She is surrounded by reporters wanting to get a photograph of "Larry." He is then thrown into the public eye and at first he is glad because then he can spread his anti-consumerism message to all those who do not have access to the internet. He quickly realizes that reporters do not want to know about his message; they want to know about him: his life, his family, and his friends.
Josh likes to talk to his deceased mother at the makeup desk at Bloomingdale's. His mother would go there once a month to buy makeup and talk to the woman who worked there. Josh sits on a chair and talks out loud to his mother. He waits for the next voice he hears and whatever they say is his answer.
Josh gets really depressed by the fact that he cannot leave his house without being harassed by reporters and tries to talk to his mother. He is very confused and does not know where to go from there. He hears a woman say "Sometimes I could just kill myself." Immediately after that another woman says "I'm completely serious. Sometimes it's the only way." This is when he begins to consider suicide as a way out.
He ends up biking to the Sagamore Bridge because he has heard stories of how people had jumped from there. He rides home after that, pretty shaken up. The next day he gets bored and is looking up Greek and Latin roots. He puts two words together and comes up with pseudocide (Pseudo-, "false." and -cide, "killing") to pretend to kill yourself. He starts working out plans for this, not entirely considering going through with it, but it is a project. He does everything necessary for this fake suicide to occur.
On the day he decides to do it he cuts and dyes his hair and rides his bike to the Sagamore bridge, after seeing no one around throws his clothes over and tucks his pants into his bag so he is wearing shorts. He waves down a passing car and tells them he was running past and saw a kid jump. He describes himself as he looked before. They see his bike is registered. Josh is so freaked out that he throws up. He leaves and stays at a small motel as he watches the local news about how everything goes. He does not want there to be a doubt that it was a successful suicide.
Awards and Reviews
- A BookSense Pick
- A Best Book for Young Adults
- A New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
- A Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
- A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book
- Four starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Horn Book.
“A thrilling read, fast-paced with much fast food for thought about our consumer-oriented culture. The voice is clear, the ending satisfying. Teenagers will eat this one up.” Kirkus – Starred Review
“A terrific read with a credible and lovable main character. Tashjian’s gift for portraying bright adolescents with insight and humor reaches near perfection here.” School Library Journal – Starred Review
“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.” – Booklist – Starred Review