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The gospel according to Larry

by Tashjian, Janet.

Format: Print Book 2001
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
Carnegie Library of McKeesport - White Oak Young Adult Fiction YA F TAS
Location  Carnegie Library of McKeesport - White Oak
Collection  Young Adult Fiction
Call Number  YA F TAS
After creating a controversial and hugely popular website, teenager Josh Swensen becomes trapped inside his brilliant creation and must find a way to remain anonymous.
I am lying on my bed doing my homework in Greek and Latin roots for Advanced English. 'Ped' for foot, 'homo' for man, 'nym' for name. I sit with the dictionary in front of me, coming up with as many words as I can to complete the assignment. Pedestrian, homicide, pseudonym . . . I have more than thirty of them. By accident -- that's always how these life-changing things happen -- I connect two halves that don't seem like a word until I look it up. 'Pseudo', false; and 'cide, ' to kill = pseudocide. To pretend to kill (yourself).
I stare at the word for a good long time. Homicide, suicide, genocide: these are words you can find in the newspaper every day. But pseudocide . . . now here was something different. My mind wanders from my homework to the blue cotton threads of my bedspread. Pseudocide. A way to start again as someone completely new, a way to burn the old self and try on a new one.
Josh Swensen isn't your average teenager - when he observes America, he sees a powerhouse of consumerism and waste. He'seven tried to do something about it, with his start-up controversial website. But when Josh rises to messiah status of the internet world, he discovers that greed and superficiality are not easily escaped. Trapped inside his own creation, Josh feels his only way out is to stage his death and be free of his internet alter-ego, Larry. But this plan comes with danger, and soon Josh finds himself cut off from the world, with no one to turn to for help. In this suspenseful young adult novel, Janet Tashjian has written a probing tour-de-force.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Gr. 7-10.The frame story is intriguing: a teenager encounters Tashjian in a grocery store. He knows she's a writer and hands her a bundle of typed pages. At first she demurs, but then she agrees to help facilitate its publication. And why not? Josh Swensen, or "Larry" as he's known around the world, has an amazing story to tell. Recorded on an old manual typewriter (as shown by the text's typeface), the tale begins as something of a lark. Josh fancies himself a philosopher; he's undeniably bright, and he wants to change the world. Using the pseudonym Larry, he posts sermons against consumerism on a Web site, hoping to get some hits from kindred spirits. His message takes off with frightening speed: he's soon getting thousands of hits a day. Josh is determined to keep his identity a secret, even from Beth, his best friend and the girl he has loved since the sixth grade. Ironically, although Beth has never shown a romantic interest in Josh, she is quite taken with Larry. Larry clubs are springing up around the country, and Beth starts a group to discuss his writings. The movement snowballs. Even Bono, the anti-globalization rock star from U2, lauds Larry and organizes a Woodstock-like festival in honor of his pure vision for the future. But trouble lurks in the form of "betagold," the e-mail moniker of a woman out to uncover Larry's identity. She does, and Josh's hellish visions about consumerism and celebrity become his personal nightmare. Killing himself seems to be his only way out, but after he fakes his own death, the nightmare grows even darker. 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. Overall, the concept, structure, and themes are superior to the writing. Still, Josh and his family, friends, and admirers seem real, and that's hard to pull off since they are roaming around a timely allegory. The plot, too, glides along smoothly with a surprise around every corner. There are a few over-the-top spots. Josh's mother is dead, but he still "speaks" to her at the place she loved best--the cosmetics counter at Bloomingdales. His stepfather, Peter, conveniently works for an ad agency, thus giving Josh/Larry access to secret advertising campaigns that allow him to legitimize his writings and eventually alienate his stepfather. The book's worst character is Peter's girlfriend, an acquisitive airhead who spends her time and money collecting plates, ties, anything with the image of Humpty Dumpty. She is stereotype writ large. There's plenty in this story that is larger than life, but in important ways. Josh opens the chapters of his book with quotes from the New Testament, and it's not a stretch that he sees himself as a messiah figure, as do many others. The biblical images, carefully chosen, juxtapose interestingly with the clear-eyed view of contemporary culture and the questions it raises: What do people need to live happy lives? Can any mass movement really be good? Is decency always so easily perverted? Maybe discussion groups really will spring up to consider the gospel according to Larry. As Tashjian shows, there's plenty to talk about. --Ilene Cooper"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "A highly intelligent 17-year-old takes on a pseudonym and starts a Web site that rants against consumer culture. As his popularity grows and his identity becomes impossible to hide, he is forced to reevaluate his medium for instigating change. "A funny, thoughtful novel that takes on some sophisticated issues," wrote PW. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Web sites -- Fiction.
Identity -- Fiction.
Fame -- Fiction.
Coming of age -- Fiction.
Publisher New York :Henry Holt & Co.,2001
Edition 1st ed.
Language English
Description x, 227 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
ISBN 0805063781 (hc : alk. paper)
9781250044389 (pbk.)
Other Classic View