Nothing

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Nothing Book Poster Image
Funny, irreverent look at everyday teen dramas.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A few brief mentions of school-related study that establish mood or character.

Positive Messages

It’s tempting to stay on the path of least resistance; if you never make an effort, you avoid bad outcomes like failure and heartbreak. But if you stay complacent, you eventually become a sheep, someone with no thoughts or opinions of their own. You have to at least try to make your life how you really want it to be, and keep a larger perspective about how much damage would really be done if things don't work out the way you hope they will.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Charlotte's fear of failure means she doesn't try anything, gives up easily, and is scared to try to make anything happen. Frankie is fearless and impatient for things to happen. She jumps before she looks, but she's resilient enough to adapt to how things turn out. They model deep friendship bonds and loyalty, and are both basically good kids who do well in school and are pretty self-sufficient. They normalize the idea that occasional pot use and drinking are not a big deal.

Violence

Rape mentioned as a predictable event in YA books. A brief conversation about the attack on the Twin Towers of 9/11. Brief mention of blood from an accident.

Sex

A few kisses. Teens talk and speculate about sex, like a brief discussion about a girl who has sex in weird places, and saying that their parents still smooch, that they're not gay, or that nobody their age has wild sex. A boy at a party says he needs to "f--k something in 30 minutes" or he'll leave; he gropes and tries to take outside (for sex) a girl who's almost passed out, but he's thwarted. A fictional movie plot mentions a boy sleeping with his love interest's mother. Teens read a passage aloud about a gay teen girl that mentions opening her legs.

Language

"Ass" and variations, "bitch," "douche," "ho" (whore), "f--k" and variations, "s--t," "p---y," "d--k," "hell," "slut," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation. Reference to "fart pasta," and farting while eating it.

Consumerism

Lots of mall stores, clothing, food, drink, tech, and pop culture products mentioned to establish location or character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Fifteen-year-old teens occasionally drink beer and usually smoke marijuana on weekends. They have champagne and pot on New Year's Eve. Mention that kids get wasted in the bathroom at lunchtime. A parent points out the liquor cabinet and then jokes that she shouldn't have told them where it was. Other teens drink heavily at parties. A narcotic drink (lean) mentioned. A conversation about cigarette smoking mentions it's disgusting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nothing, a novel for teens by Annie Barrows, author of the popular children's series Ivy + Bean, tells the story of two California suburban high school girlfriends, Frankie and Charlotte, who think nothing ever happens in their lives. That's until Charlotte decides to write a novel that chronicles all the everyday ups and downs of sophomore year. Strong language is frequent and includes "f--k" and "s--t." High school sophomores occasionally drink and usually smoke marijuana on weekends. Frankie and Charlotte have a few mild kisses with guys, and teens talk and speculate about sex a lot. At a party, Charlotte interferes in a situation between a friend who's too drunk to stand up and a guy who's determined to have sex at the party, preventing a nonconsensual act from occurring. There's some brief talk about being gay and not being gay, and a teen reads aloud about a brief same-sex encounter.

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What's the story?

High school sophomore Charlotte wants to write a book about how NOTHING ever happens in her and best friend Frankie's regular, everyday suburban lives. Not yet old enough to drive, and also not yet burdened with having to figure out what to do after high school, they're bursting with impatience for something, anything, to happen. And they're both fed up with young adult books that aren't realistic and rehash the same old themes time and again. So Charlotte starts documenting all the little things that happen over the course of a day, a month, a school year. It doesn't take long for her to see that these things add up to more than nothing. 

Is it any good?

This YA debut from veteran kids' book author Annie Barrows takes an irreverent, funny look at teens impatient for their lives to go somewhere and to do something, anything. Particularly satisfying in Nothing are Charlotte and Frankie's snappy dialogue and Charlotte's believable, relatable, diary-like documentation of sophomore year. The story may be full of the everyday, but for 15-year-olds, that includes a heaping serving of teen drama with a dash of angst on the side. These girls live easy lives free from financial worry or any kind of hardship, and from some perspectives that in itself may seem as unrealistic as they find the rest of YA literature. But the girls are engaging characters, and teens will enjoy watching their friendship unfold.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the friendship of Charlotte and Frankie. What makes it work? Is it realistic? How long do you think it will last? Why?

  • Is the strong language in Nothing realistic? Is it OK in books, movies, and TV aimed at teens?

  • What would a realistic book about your life be like? Would it be like this one? Would anything happen?

Book details

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