I always feel weird discussing my favorites/best-of before the year is out. I could read something really awesome in December, not to mention that I’m behind due to the roughly two-month-long motivational slump that curtailed my reading this fall.
With that caveat, a few 2010 books definitely stand out—the brilliant futuristic and frighteningly plausible, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; Deception by Lee Nichols, a fun concoction that far surpassed my ugh-yet-another-paranormal-series skepticism and doubts; and the emotionally wrenching Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers.
Then there’s Janne Teller’s harrowing and intense Nothing (translated from Danish by Martin Aitken). I can’t honestly call it a favorite or say that I liked it. Unlike the aforementioned novels, this implies too much affection or fondness toward the book that I didn’t quite feel. Because Nothing, a “visionary existential novel” as the publisher called it, justifiably compares to Lord of the Flies, another book I wouldn’t exactly call enjoyable.
Why has Nothing had such an impact then? It’s definitely the best teen novel I’ve read this year, but “best” doesn’t quite do the book justice—it lacks personal meaning and subjectivity. There were many other books that I didn’t personally enjoy, but I wouldn’t argue with their “best books” designation either. Yet I don’t rave about many of those “best” books the way I do about Nothing. They didn’t hit me the way this one did.
Nothing is about a search for meaning gone horrifically wrong. When Pierre Anthon announces to his classmates that he’s realized nothing matters, his classmates decide to prove otherwise by collecting meaningful things. What starts as a collection of favorite toys and mementos soon escalates into something darker as the classmates begin to force one another into giving up more than material possessions. Their quest takes on a momentum of its own, and everyone is compelled to remain a part of it.
Nothing is not an easy read, but it blew me away. As dark and brutal as it gets, I also found it absolutely mesmerizing. It’s not for everyone, but it’s more than just a best book to me—memorable, perhaps, or noteworthy. Or maybe I should take a cue from the book and simply call it one of the most meaningful books I’ve read this year.
Trisha Murakami blogs at The YA YA YAs and is trying to catch up on those 2010 YA books that everyone else is blogging about.