The Gospel According to Larry

( 43 )

Overview

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...

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Overview

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’s even tried to do something about it, with his controversial start-up 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, The Gospel According to Larry, Janet Tashjian has written a probing tour-de-force.

Seventeen-year-old Josh, a loner-philosopher who wants to make a difference in the world, tries to maintain his secret identity as the author of a web site that is receiving national attention.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

A Booklist Editor’s Choice

Book Sense Children’s 76 Winter 2002 Preview title

A Teen People “Now! Reads” title

* “[A] thrilling read, fast-paced with much fast food for thought about our consumer-oriented pop culture. . . .Teenagers will eat this one up.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Tashjian’s gift for portraying bright adolescents with insight and humor reaches near perfection here.” —School Library Journal, starred review

* “Tashjian fabricates a cleverly constructed scenario and expertly carries it out to the bittersweet end.” —The Horn Book, starred review

* “Very fresh.” —Booklist, starred review

“[A] clever wake-up call to the perils of consumerism for the sensitive and passionate teenage generation.” —Christian Science Monitor

“An innovative, fast-paced, arresting novel in a teen’s voice that you won’t forget.” —Contra Costa Times

“I’ll predict that 99 percent of the teen-agers who read The Gospel According to Larry will love it.” —Long Beach Press Telegram

“A surprising and absorbing book.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Tashjian skillfully uses humor and provides one of the most honest voices in young adult literature since Steve York and Rob Thomas’s.” —VOYA

“Humorous. . . .The author gets all the notes just right—the wired adolescent passions, the destructive effects of the media spotlight, and the technology.” —Times Picayune

“Tashjian is sure to increase in popularity with the adolescent set.” —Book Report

“This is a great, well-written read.” —Colorado Independent

Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written as an alleged account that a teen prophet handed to the author to publish, Tashjian's (Tru Confessions) funny, thoughtful novel takes on some sophisticated issues. Highly intelligent 17-year-old Josh Swensen wants to save the world and hopefully seduce Beth, the best friend for whom he pines. Josh's self-deprecating, humorous tone carries readers swiftly along ("Can someone please explain to me how this preoccupation with dopey athletes happens even to headstrong young women who... score 750s on their SATs?" he says when Beth gravitates to "Todd Terrific, a new jock she was obsessed with"). As the anonymous Larry, the hero starts a Web site (www.thegospelaccordingtolarry.com) on which he rants against consumer culture and its obsession with celebrities. But as Larry's popularity grows, Josh's identity becomes impossible to hide, forcing him to reevaluate his medium for instigating change. The popularity of his site which contains his "sermons," photos of some of his 75 possessions and parodies of ad campaigns may not be entirely convincing to some teens, but his compelling character and other clever flourishes, like Larryfest, the advertising-free rock festival put together by U2's Bono, or the make-up counter at Bloomingdale's, where Josh goes to connect with the spirit of his dead mother, keep the novel clipping along. Tashjian not only gives readers a good primer on materialism (and Thoreau), she also makes them think about a different kind of activism. Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Josh Swenson, gifted teenager, has always been a loner. Tired of complacency, he designs a Website, thegospelaccordingtolarry.com in which he speaks out against consumerism. Josh keeps his identity a secret — even from Beth, the girl he admires — and uses the name Larry on the Website. He's not prepared for the popularity of the Website, however. Josh cannot seem to tell Beth, and he worries when someone called Betagold is determined to identify Larry. Josh's mother is dead, and he cannot confide in his stepfather. When Betagold identifies Larry, Josh finds his world falling apart. He can only plan his own death (though he intends to stay alive), and leave the world he has known to find a new identity. The poignant conclusion of this book leaves the reader wanting a sequel. Tashjian shows us the world of the bright adolescent in the trials and triumphs of Josh. 2001, Henry Holt & Company, 227 pp.,
— Connie Russell
Children's Literature
Idealistic and hyper-intelligent, seventeen-year-old Josh Swenson needs an outlet for his ideas about how to save the world. It all starts innocently enough, when Josh secretly creates a website under the pen name Larry and begins to post short "sermons" on everything from resisting corporate consumerism to rejecting celebrity worship. At first, when the kids at school form a Larry Fan Club and organize an "antistuff" day inspired by Larry, Josh is flattered and pleased that Larry's political messages are getting through to other teens. Soon, though, things start to get out of control, as kids across the country latch onto Larry's message, and even U2's Bono gets into the act by espousing Larry's philosophy on national television and organizing "Larryfest," a free, noncommercial music festival celebrating Larry's ideas. Soon Josh finds himself the target of celebrity worship and obsession, as the new cult of Larry threatens to destroy Josh's family and his relationship with his best friend. Cleverly presented as Josh's own story in manuscript form, Tashjian's novel is a refreshing exploration of opportunities for political action by teenagers. The plot sometimes walks just this side of absurdity, and some figures (like Josh's advertising executive stepfather) are conveniences rather than developed characters. However, Josh's story, and particularly Larry's sermons, are excellent starting points for discussion, and may even inspire teens on their own path to political activism. 2001, Henry Holt, $16.95. Ages 12 to 16. Reviewer: Norah Piehl
VOYA
I've written a lot about the crap we fill our lives with. This quote exemplifies seventeen-year-old Larry's gospel of anticonsumerism. Larry, alias Josh Swensen, has developed an Internet cult following by sermonizing about the evils of possessions and buying the latest Gap jeans. Josh's problem is that his opinions have become so popular that there is now a manhunt to discover the truth of Larry's identity. Add to the mix a worldwide endorsement by U2's Bono, and poor Josh has a media frenzy on his hands. Now the big question is, should he tell his best friend and love of his life that he is really her Internet idol? What will happen when he is exposed? Will Larry's gospel create worldwide anticonsumerism? Josh's answer will surprise everyone. Writing under the premise that she is simply the go-between for Josh and her editor, Tashjian allows Josh to tell a story in his own words from his hideout, perhaps near Walden Woods. This story will speak clearly to many teens looking to create their own place in the world—those who have not been able to make their mark as jocks or cheerleaders or even geeks in the rough world of high school cliques. Josh's rocket to anonymous fame is a fantasy for many teens today. Tashjian skillfully uses humor and provides one of the most honest voices in young adult literature since Steve York in Rob Thomas's Rats Saw God (Simon & Schuster, 1996/VOYA June 1996). VOYA CODES:4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Henry Holt, 229p, $16.95. Ages 15 to 18. Reviewer:Lynn Evarts—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
KLIATT
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2001: Josh is a 17-year-old high school senior, bright, quiet, thoughtful, and a bit of an outcast. He is in love with his best friend Beth, but he is too shy to say anything to her about it. Josh has found one way of speaking out, though—he's created a Web site on which an alter ego named Larry posts "sermons" preaching wittily and passionately against consumerism and celebrity worship. The Web site quickly becomes a national phenomenon, sparking fan clubs, activism across the nation, and even a huge rock festival ("Larryfest") at which the band U2 plays. One fan is determined to "out" Larry, though, and eventually Josh's cover is blown. To his horror he finds he has become one of those celebrities he deplored in his sermons. Not only that, but Beth shuns him for keeping such a big secret from her, while his stepfather, an advertising executive, is infuriated by "Larry's" widely read views on his profession. Inspired by Tom Sawyer, Josh fakes his own death in order to vanish, and decides to begin again, this time working on his own faults: "I had been trying to fix the outside world without fixing the inside one first." This fascinating and provocative novel, filled with humor and irony, explores themes of truth and consequences. It gets in some good digs at our consumer culture, too, which will resonate with idealistic teens. Black and white photos of "Larry's" possessions (he limits himself to a total of 75 at any one time) and many funny footnotes enhance the tale. The framing device, in which the writer pretends that Josh gave her the text, is unnecessary, but aside from that this is an outstanding YA novel. Tashjian, theauthor of Tru Confessions and Multiple Choice, has penned a real winner here. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Random House, 227p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 7-11-In this novel by Janet Tashjian (Holt, 2001), high school senior Josh Swenson is afraid to tell Beth, his best friend since sixth grade, that he's in love with her. Josh creates an anonymous Web site and an Internet persona named Larry to air his personal philosophy and dispense advice to the girl he loves. Larry is fast becoming a media sensation contrary to all the things Josh personifies. Framed by an artful disclaimer read by the author concerning how and why Josh's tale is being told for the first time, the story itself is read by Jesse Eisenberg who captures Josh's frenetic and sometimes manic style. A very nice pacing allows the Biblical quotes at section intervals to be set off clearly. The aural cues of a manual typewriter as Josh writes as Larry or the camera whir as he takes photos of his (and Larry's) limited possessions also help keep the story's different sections as clear in a listener's mind as they are on the printed page. Even the footnotes Josh inserts wryly come through well as Eisenberg uses a sotto voce delivery. As an auditory adaptation of a very visual book, this succeeds extremely well. The story's Internet-based plot combined with a fair amount of thought-provoking issues such as consumerism, tolerance, friendship, and love, will appeal to middle and high school students.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250044389
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 7/15/2014
  • Series: Larry Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 241,654
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.21 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Tashjian is the author of many popular novels including My Life as a Book, My Life as a Stuntboy, My Life as a Cartoonist, Larry and the Meaning of Life, Vote for Larry, The Gospel According to Larry, Fault Line, Multiple Choice, and Tru Confessions. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

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Read an Excerpt

The Gospel According to Larry

The Gospel According to Larry— in my own words by Josh Swensen

"I haven't enjoyed a rant this much since Thoreau,"1 Beth said. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things."

My best friend, Beth, was trying to talk me into forming a Larry study group with her. His Web site—www.thegospelaccordingtolarry.com—received hundreds of hits a day, mostly from teens and college students. No one knew Larry's identity, and that conjecture alone was the source of several companion Web sites. Many kids at school were fans, but Beth was rabid.

"Josh, I know neither one of us has ever joined a club in our life," she said. "But that's precisely why we should."

I tried to listen to the details of her story, I really did, but there is somethingabout Beth's mouth that gets in the way of paying attention to its contents.2 She often wore a certain brown lipstick and outlined the edges of her lips with this pencil she carried in her bag. Every time she talked, it was like this pale chocolate snowcone staring up at me, waiting to be eaten. I've been in love with her since sixth grade, but she didn't have a clue.

"I'll help you with the club," I said. "But just so the two of us can bag all the meetings and laugh at the other people who show up."

She wasn't amused. "This isn't a joke. Someone is finally talking about the things I've been saying all along, and I think it's important to help spread the word. Are you in or are you out?"

"Of course I'm in. I can't let you do this on your own. Next thing I know you'll be running for prom queen or something."

She punched me in the arm, her usual form of affection. "Hey, why don't you help me at the store this afternoon? We're having a run on shovels."

Beth's father's hardware store had been our work/tree house/summer camp since grammar school. Sorting the nuts and bolts, counting the different lightbulbs, shoveling the woodchips into wheelbarrows had never seemed like a job to either of us. The small store prided itself on carrying everything a homeowner could need, but for a loner like me it was a nonthreatening way to be a part of the community without too much social pressure. I told Beth I'd meet her there at four.

For a brief moment I pretended we were a couple, not snowbound outside Boston, but romping through the Caribbean surf—tan and in love. My fantasy shattered, however, when she waved goodbye and headed across the cafeteria to Todd Terrific—a new jock she was obsessed with. Can someone please explain to me how this preoccupation with dopey athletes happens even to headstrong young women who work in hardware stores and score 1350s on their SATs? Beth, what are you doing to me? Life was cruel and unfair—what did this Larry guy have to say about that?

The rest of school went by like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray wakes up and every day is the same, down to the last boringdetails. Even when something new did happen—fire drill, substitute teacher—it was still just a giant yawn in the storyline. To keep myself amused during study hall, I invented a new alphabet based on the sense of smell.3

At home that night, I booted up my laptop and logged on. I checked my e-mail, then the small portfolio of stocks my mother left me when she died. I made one last online stop: to Larry. I wondered if Beth was doing the same thing at the same time—an unrequited cyberdate.

The Larry logo filled the screen—a peace sign with a dove, a floppy disk, a planet, and a plug inside each of its four sections. I scrolled down through several photographs to comments people had written that day: puljohn posted a new link to Adbusters. Toejam ranted about Larry's last sermon, calling it brilliantly flawed. I was in the middle of reading his argument when Peter knocked quickly, then stuck his head in my room.

"Want some leftover pizza?"

My stepfather was the ultimate businessman; even in his terrycloth robe and slippers with the squashed heels, he could command his advertising consulting firm from the brink of failure to unbridled success. He had the whole sales thing down—the firm handshake, the warm smile, the good listening. It was the real Peter, not put on, like lots of other guys at his company.

He looked over my shoulder and checked out the screen.

"I've heard about this Larry," he said. "Some guy bashing our culture online. Anonymous coward."

"Some people think it's one of the big televangelists trying to reach the teen market. Or maybe it's a bored housewife in the suburbs looking for something to do."

Peter shook his head. "Probably some hacker trying to make a name for himself."

"I'll add that to the list of hypotheses," I said.

"You do that." He handed me a slice of pizza on a paper towel. "Dinner at Katherine's tomorrow. That okay with you?"

"Sure. Great." Katherine was my stepfather's girlfriend who had been putting on the full-court press to be the next Mrs. Swensen. Ididn't have the nerve to tell Peter I found her as interesting as a bag of rice.

Peter closed the door and headed downstairs to his office. I browsed the Larry archives, then printed out the latest sermon to prepare for Beth tomorrow.

SERMON #93

Slip on your Gap jeans, your Nike T-shirt, your Reeboks—or maybe even your Cons if you think that makes you cool and ironic in a Kurt Cobain kind of way. Grab your Adidas backpack, ride to school on your Razor, drink your Poland Spring, eat your PowerBar, write a paper on your iMac, slip on your Ralph Lauren windbreaker. Buy the latest CD from Tower, check the caller ID to see who's on the phone, eat your Doritos, drink your Coke. Stare at the TV till you're stupefied.

Is there any time of the day when we're not being used and abused by the advertising companies? Can we have an inch of free space, do you mind? Someambitious kids rent their head space—the outside, not the inside (although the inside space is certainly emptier)—to local companies by shaving ads into their hair for all their friends to see. It's just a matter of time before corporations figure out a way to sell you stuff while you're sleeping. Maybe some kind of vitamin that releases visual and sonic enzymes that run like a ticker tape through your dreams—ALL THE LATEST RELEASES NOW AT BLOCKBUSTER ... CHEESIER NACHOS AT CHILI'S ... BY THE WAY, YOU'RE SNORING ... .

Am I the only one who sees the irony of sitting in lit class reading 1984, having a discussion of Big Brother watching out for us like it's some time way in the future? Some science fiction nightmare that's never really going to happen? Hel-lo? Our lives couldn't be more dictated by the corporations if they gave our schools A/V equipment in exchange for making us watch commercials in class.

Oh yeah, they do that already.

Never mind.

Good thing Peter hadn't hung around for that one. By two A.M., I had fourteen pages of notes for the new Larry club.4 When I added up all the things I'd done for Beth over the years, I figured it was more effort than they put into developing the last space shuttle.

And completely and totally worth it.

Copyright © 2001 by Janet Tashjian

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First Chapter

Part One

"I haven't enjoyed a rant this much since Thoreau," Beth said. "We need people stirring up the way we think about things."

My best friend, Beth, was trying to talk me into forming a Larry study group with her. His Web site received hundreds of hits a day, mostly from teens and college students. No one knew Larry's identity, and that conjecture alone was the source of several companion Web sites. Many kids at school were fans, but Beth was rabid.

"Josh, I know neither one of us has ever joined a club in our life," she said. "But that's precisely why we should."

I tried to listen to the details of her story, I really did, but there is something about Beth's mouth that gets in the way of paying attention to its contents. She often wore a certain brown lipstick and outlined the edges of her lips with this pencil she carried in her bag. Every time she talked, it was like this pale chocolate snowcone staring up at me, waiting to be eaten. I've been in love with her since sixth grade, but she didn't have a clue.

"I'll help you with the club," I said. "But just so the two of us can bag all the meetings and laugh at the other people who show up."

She wasn't amused. "This isn't a joke. Someone is finally talking about the things I've been saying all along, and I think it's important to help spread the word. Are you in or are you out?"

"Of course I'm in. I can't let you do this on your own. Next thing I know you'll be running for prom queen or something."

She punched me in the arm, her usual form of affection. "Hey, why don't you help me at the store this afternoon? We're having a run on shovels."

Beth's father'shardware store had been our work/tree house/summer camp since grammar school. Sorting the nuts and bolts, counting the different lightbulbs, shoveling the woodchips into wheelbarrows had never seemed like a job to either of us. The small store prided itself on carrying everything a homeowner could need, but for a loner like me it was a nonthreatening way to be a part of the community without too much social pressure. I told Beth I'd meet her there at four.

For a brief moment I pretended we were a couple, not snowbound outside Boston, but romping through the Caribbean surf--tan and in love. My fantasy shattered, however, when she waved goodbye and headed across the cafeteria to Todd Terrific--a new jock she was obsessed with. Can someone please explain to me how this preoccupation with dopey athletes happens even to headstrong young women who work in hardware stores and score 1350s on their SATs? Beth, what are you doing to me? Life was cruel and unfair--what did this Larry guy have to say about that?

The rest of school went by like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray wakes up and every day is the same, down to the last boring details. Even when something new did happen--fire drill, substitute teacher--it was still just a giant yawn in the storyline. To keep myself amused during study hall, I invented a new alphabet based on the sense of smell.

At home that night, I booted up my laptop and logged on. I checked my e-mail, then the small portfolio of stocks my mother left me when she died. I made one last online stop: to Larry. I wondered if Beth was doing the same thing at the same time--an unrequited cyberdate.

The Larry logo filled the screen--a peace sign with a dove, a floppy disk, a planet, and a plug inside each of its four sections. I scrolled down through several photographs to comments people had written that day: puljohn posted a new link to Adbusters. Toejam ranted about Larry's last sermon, calling it brilliantly flawed. I was in the middle of reading his argument when Peter knocked quickly, then stuck his head in my room.

"Want some leftover pizza?"

My stepfather was the ultimate businessman; even in his terrycloth robe and slippers with the squashed heels, he could command his advertising consulting firm from the brink of failure to unbridled success. He had the whole sales thing down--the firm handshake, the warm smile, the good listening. It was the real Peter, not put on, like lots of other guys at his company.

He looked over my shoulder and checked out the screen.

"I've heard about this Larry," he said. "Some guy bashing our culture online. Anonymous coward."

"Some people think it's one of the big televangelists trying to reach the teen market. Or maybe it's a bored housewife in the suburbs looking for something to do."

Peter shook his head. "Probably some hacker trying to make a name for himself."

"I'll add that to the list of hypotheses," I said.

"You do that." He handed me a slice of pizza on a paper towel. "Dinner at Katherine's tomorrow. That okay with you?"

"Sure. Great." Katherine was my stepfather's girlfriend who had been putting on the full-court press to be the next Mrs. Swensen. I didn't have the nerve to tell Peter I found her as interesting as a bag of rice.

Peter closed the door and headed downstairs to his office. I browsed the Larry archives, then printed out the latest sermon to prepare for Beth tomorrow.

Sermon #93

Slip on your Gap jeans, your Nike T-shirt, your Reeboks--or maybe even your Cons if you think that makes you cool and ironic in a Kurt Cobain kind of way. Grab your Adidas backpack, ride to school on your Razor, drink your Poland Spring, eat your PowerBar, write a paper on your iMac, slip on your Ralph Lauren windbreaker. Buy the latest CD from Tower, check the caller ID to see who's on the phone, eat your Doritos, drink your Coke. Stare at the TV till you're stupefied.

Is there any time of the day when we're not being used and abused by the advertising companies? Can we have an inch of free space, do you mind? Some ambitious kids rent their head space--the outside, not the inside (although the inside space is certainly emptier)--to local companies by shaving ads into their hair for all their friends to see. It's just a matter of time before corporations figure out a way to sell you stuff while you're sleeping. Maybe some kind of vitamin that releases visual and sonic enzymes that run like a ticker tape through your dreams--ALL THE LATEST RELEASES NOW AT BLOCKBUSTER ... CHEESIER NACHOS AT CHILI'S . . . BY THE WAY, YOU'RE SNORING. . . .

Am I the only one who sees the irony of sitting in lit class reading 1984, having a discussion of Big Brother watching out for us like it's some time way in the future? Some science fiction nightmare that's never really going to happen? Hel-lo? Our lives couldn't be more dictated by the corporations if they gave our schools A/V equipment in exchange for making us watch commercials in class.

Oh yeah, they do that already.

Never mind.

Good thing Peter hadn't hung around for that one. By two a.m., I had fourteen pages of notes for the new Larry club. When I added up all the things I'd done for Beth over the years, I figured it was more effort than they put into developing the last space shuttle.

And completely and totally worth it.
Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Josh Swensen is not your average 17-year-old. At the age of two, he was figuring out algebraic equations with colored magnetic numbers. He is a prodigy who only wants to make the world a better place. Josh’s wish comes true when his virtual alter ego, Larry, becomes a huge media sensation. Larry has his own Web site where he posts sermons on anti-consumerism and has a large following of adults and teens. Meanwhile, Larry’s identity is a mystery to everyone. While it seems as if the whole world is trying to figure out Larry’s true identity, Josh feels trapped inside his own creation. What will happen to the world, and to Larry, if he is exposed?
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    Good Book.

    I'm a junior at Holt High School and I just completed the book "The Gospel According To Larry". In my opinion, it is a really good and interesting book. It is about a guy named Josh Swensen who is an undercover blogger named Larry. Josh is still in high school and is the smartest guy around. He is the type of person who would rather be alone in peace than with a crowd of people. In my opinion that is because his mom wasn't around anymore. But when the reporter Betagold reveals his identity to everyone, he becomes a hit. The only thing is, he didn't want anyone to know. Especially his best friend Beth. He secretly loves her. He was thinking about telling her multiple times throughout the book that he was Larry, but never got around to it. So when the sermons that he made about Beth related to her, she just thought someone felt the same way as her. Not knowing that Josh was the blogger, she felt the need to express how she felt through a club in school. Soon to come was a Larryfest because so many people liked the sermons he made. Josh Swensen was famous after having his identity revealed.
    I liked the book because it would always have me guessing what would happen next. Also because it kept me interested. Not a lot of books keep my attention like this one. I really liked the plot of this book because it was in a rural area and there were some woods where it took place. I like nature. The only thing I didn't like about this book was that it didn't have any action in it. I would give this book a rating of 4 out of 5.
    If you like books that keep you guessing, then I would recommend you read this book. If you like books that have a good plot, I would recommend this book to you. If you don't like books that don't have an absolutely amazing ending, I would recommend you not to read this book. If you don't like books that aren't action packed, then this book isn't for you. The author of this book is Janet Tashjian and I would recommend you read any book by her.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 11, 2009

    The Gospel According to Larry

    In my opinion, this was a great book. It's written in a teenager's point of view so it is easy to relate to. The main character, Josh Swensen, creates his own website "The Gospel According to Larry", him being the alter-ego Larry. On the site he shares his values and opinions about different world issues and thousands of teens and even adults check the site everyday. It soon becomes international, and yet nobody knows Larry's identity, that is until his cover is blown and Josh Swensen, a boy from a small town, must take great risks and hard decisions in order to stay out of the publics eye. Overall I loved this book and its many twists and turns. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great quick read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2007

    The Gospel According to Larry

    I Loved this book. There wansn't an obvious messege but the hiddin messege was touching. This intellegent story of Josh (aka larry) would be a great read for any age.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    LOVE

    I have this book for a summer reading assingment and I love this book!!! I am almost done with it and I am pretty upset because I want the book to be longer... but overall I love this book and would recommend it to anyone!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Cookies

    It was bad then good then bad again

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Horrible

    DO NOT READ THIS IT IS HORRIBLE! I WARNED U! I WOULD NOT GIVE THIS ANY STARS BUT I HAVE TO.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Taylor Rector for TeensReadToo.com

    Josh is a bored seventeen-year-old genius. That is just a recipe for disaster! <BR/><BR/>Just for something to do, he creates a website where he posts all of his rants about our celebrity-obsessed culture, anti-communism, and any other random thing that he thinks of. Josh names his site "The Gospel According To Larry" because that is the most unreligious name he could possibly think of. He's getting two or three hits a day, until some kids from his school find the page and he's soon getting a few hundred visitors a day to his website. <BR/><BR/>Then Bono, the lead singer of U2, finds Josh's site. And he mentions the site on national television. <BR/><BR/>Josh instantly begins getting millions of hits a day and everyone wants to know who Larry is. <BR/><BR/>Then betagold, a fan of Larry's, begins leaving comments on Josh's site about how he should just come out and tell everyone who Larry really is. <BR/><BR/>As things begin to spin out of control, Josh goes crazy! What will he do to save himself? Will he ever reveal that he's "Larry"? <BR/><BR/>This is a really funny book, because I can totally imagine something like this actually happening! Sometimes the middle is a little slow, but overall the book is a really great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    Josh is a bored seventeen-year-old genius. That is just a recipe for disaster! Just for something to do, he creates a website where he posts all of his rants about our celebrity-obsessed culture, anti- communism, and any other random thing that he thinks of. Josh names his site ¿The Gospel According To Larry¿ because that is the most unreligious name he could possibly think of. He¿s getting two or three hits a day, until some kids from his school find the page and he¿s soon getting a few hundred visitors a day to his website. Then Bono, the lead singer of U2, finds Josh¿s site. And he mentions the site on national television. Josh instantly begins getting millions of hits a day and everyone wants to know who Larry is. Then betagold, a fan of Larry¿s, begins leaving comments on Josh¿s site about how he should just come out and tell everyone who Larry really is. As things begin to spin out of control, Josh goes crazy! What will he do to save himself? Will he ever reveal that he's 'Larry'? This is a really funny book, because I can totally imagine something like this actually happening! Sometimes the middle is a little slow, but overall the book is a really great read! **Reviewed by: Taylor Rector

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2007

    Like the Outsiders

    Josh, an intelligent 17 year old, wants to change the world, help it move forward. He is a private person who creates a site on the internet out of boredom. He shows to other people what he values and what they should value also. His mentor is Thoreau and he tries to follow in the philosophers footsteps. He says, 'why are kids puppets to the Big Brother Corporate America?' His site gets bombarded with people who 'mostly' agree. One person under the sceen name of Betagold puts Josh under pressure to reveal who he is, while she doesn't reveal herself. He achieves his goal-of changing the world- in a way he doesn't like. Eventually, he escapes the ending in creative way, maybe not the best way, but it was his only option.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Good

    Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian is a very good book about a very anti-materialistic boy named Josh Swenson who speaks out to the world over the internet under the alias of ¿Larry¿. He posts sermons on his website for others to read and to comment on. He also speaks his mind and lets everyone know how he feels about materialistic and other such things like communists etc. I think it was a very good thing he was doing, he was letting people hear his thoughts and put there input on it. He was trying to make people realize how your life doesn¿t really need to rely on objects to live. He does tend to run into a problem in this book, someone named betagold is out to get him and will go to any extent to reveal who he really is. She goes from looking for him in a simple place like Larry Fest all the way too tracking his internet service provider, which makes him have to constantly switch. I recommend reading this book, it is definitely a must read for all high school teens. I honestly think it has to be the best book I have read in a long time, well worth the little bit of time it takes to read it. I would give this book a 4/5 nothing less, maybe even a 5. The book definitely made me think, and taught me that we don¿t need to live a materialistic life, to live a good one. I would also recommend this book to anyone the age of 14+ I think almost anyone above the age of 14 would find this to be very interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Very Well Put Together

    The Gospel According to Larry is a well written novel about a boy, Josh. Josh is your average highschooler except for one thing. No one knows that he is behind the largest online movement in the history of the internet. But little does he know there is someone trying to find his true identity. This book is pretty good. It¿s based on a true story. I recommend it for anyone wanting a good book that is not a slow and boring read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    WOW WO COOL

    This book was very interesting. On scale of one to ten I would rate this book as a seven. It had a very unique look at how to live in the society of today. It was very creative. It was easy to relate to the main character because he was about the same age as me. I couldn¿t put the book down. It wasn¿t too hard to read and not to long. I would recommend this book for old people who have nothing better to do. That¿s how I feel about this book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2005

    Favorite book

    i loved this book. it is my favorite book. i wish we could read books like this in high school. this book has really taught me something, how not to be so materialistic.. i would recommend every teenager (or everyone in general) read this book. Best Book EVER! <3 Melissa

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2005

    Very well done.

    This is prabably the most creative book i have ever read.(i'm not sure if i will include Sherlock Holmes) but it was still very creative. I related to josh very well because he has a lot of the same ideals i have. I am a little jealous that he gets to spend that much time alone though. I wish that josh was real and that the whole thing really did happen. Maybe then people wouldn't be such jerks and everyone wouldn't be brainwashed zombies by their television screens. Once again, very well done, and very clever. Oh and if you like larry's ideals then try reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, he's a brilliant philosopher. He believes that the key to happiness is simplicity, he's right you know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2005

    MY FAVORITE BOOK!

    i swear on billie joe armstrongs life this is my FAVORITE book ever!!! it's so good in every way. It covers so many little problems we have- but in a different way you can still understand.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2004

    The Gospel Speaks!

    This book is compleatly and utterly facinating. Josh Swenson is pretty much a guy you can relate to, and end up connecting compleatly with by the end of the novel. I REALLY recomend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2004

    Sew REpoRts RevIew

    A book that family and children can read togeater and be inspired.Vocabulary is not that tense

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2004

    amazing...

    This book was absolutly insperational, I wish every one would read this. People need to believe in some thing, and poeple shouldn't want to destroy a good thing like the lady did. This books should be a required title.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2004

    Great Book

    The Gospel According To Larry by Janet Tashjian is a very uplifting novel about a boy named Josh who rights internet sermons under the name of Larry about anti-consumerism, and gains a huge following with still no one knowing who he is. The novel is written extremely well and brings the reader in. There are many strengths in this novel. It is written in the first person and seems like you are actually in the book with Josh, getting the big picture by using descriptive writing, An example of this is a quote about how he is in love with his best friend, Beth. ¿Good old Beth. I wanted to tell her she was the only person who truly comforted me when my mother died. But from my emotional straightjacket, all I said instead was Thanks. I shuffled off to my next class with my heart aching.¿ The quote shows exactly how it feels and gives you a feeling of being there with him. I would highly recommend this book to children and adults of any age. The story is very fun to read and hard to put down. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars, it is one of the best books I have read in awhile.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    Political Activism Made Fun

    'The Gospel According to Larry' is a book that entertains, informs, and educates. It is a rare instance that issues involving society arise in young adult books, but Janet Tashjian found a way to present the issues in a way that teens can both understand and enjoy. Larry's sardonic outlook is refreshing, and I often found myself laughing out loud at his remarks simply because they are not unlike many things I have said. I think that is part of TGATL's appeal. Larry/Josh is a very familiar character who is easy to relate to. Tashjian puts a commendable spin on consumerism, the environment, capitalism, war as well as many other prevalent issues in society today. This important to reach the voting youth of the next generation, more so now because of the low voter turn-out. Overall, 'The Gospel According to Larry' is a must read for any teens. You never know, it might even inspire some much needed SOCIAL ACTIVISM!

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews

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