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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LARRY by Janet Tashjian Kirkus Star


by Janet Tashjian

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8050-6378-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

Josh Swensen is a prodigy. At age two, he did algebraic equations with refrigerator magnets. His mother’s threats of “no science homework after dinner” were enough to keep his behavior in line. His first word, shouted from his car seat, was “FASTER!” Now a self-proclaimed rebel against consumer culture and a latter-day Thoreau, Josh has created Larry, his Internet alter ego with his own Web site, where Larry delivers sermons railing against the control of our lives by advertising companies and our “culture that worships people just for being famous.” Josh steals ads from his advertising-consultant stepfather’s briefcase, manipulates the images into anorexic Gap models, cigarette ad models hooked up to oxygen machines, and swooshes turned into swastikas, and puts them on the Web site. Following a fortuitous alliance with Bono and U2, and a Woodstock-like event called Larryfest, Larry takes on a life of his own. The festival draws hundreds of thousands of fellow pilgrims and spiritual seekers, and the Web site now can’t handle the 255 million hits it receives daily. Josh, through Larry, has become what he never intended to be—a celebrity—and he must find a way to pull the plug. Told in Josh’s first-person narrative laced with Larry’s sermons and photographs, the story accelerates with Larry’s rise as a cult leader. Tashjian’s inventive story is a thrilling read, fast-paced with much fast food for thought about our consumer-oriented pop culture. A parallel narrative about Beth, Josh’s childhood friend and secret love, works nicely, too. The voice is clear, the ending satisfying. Teenagers will eat this one up. (Fiction. YA)