Vote For Larry

Vote For Larry

4.2 8
by Janet Tashjian
     
 

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Those were the magic words and Beth knew it. How many times had I uttered that phrase to Ms. Robinson in guidance, the standard answer for what I wanted to do with my life? CHANGE THE WORLD. Did I still have the strength and determination to get it together and try to make a difference?
Was it my destiny, my vocation?
Or was I just trying to

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Overview

Those were the magic words and Beth knew it. How many times had I uttered that phrase to Ms. Robinson in guidance, the standard answer for what I wanted to do with my life? CHANGE THE WORLD. Did I still have the strength and determination to get it together and try to make a difference?
Was it my destiny, my vocation?
Or was I just trying to impress a girl?
As I looked at Beth, I wondered if the reason why even mattered.

The indefatigable Larry is back, and this time he takes on the American political system

After falling off the wagon and becoming what he so clearly and strongly resisted-a consumer-Josh Swensen (aka Larry) finds himself in a hyper-paranoid state of no return. That is, until he's kidnapped and coaxed into resurfacing as his old persona. Before long, Larry is back on the scene with much more on his mind than a gospel Web site-this time Larry wants to affect change in government. What starts out as a campaign to get the younger population to vote turns into a run for the presidency. Can Larry really take on George Bush?

In this very smart, very witty novel, Janet Tashjian brings the political world to the forefront and explores it from many different points of view.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Tashjian's clever, inspiring sequel, Josh Swensen (known to his public as Larry)-now living in Boulder, Colo., as Mark Paulson-comes clean about faking his death in The Gospel According to Larry (he refers to it as a "pseudocide"), and announces his run for the presidency. Beth, his childhood love, convinces him to return to public life ("It was time for me to contribute again"). Readers meeting Josh for the first time do not have to worry; a generous supply of Tashjian's trademark pithy footnotes fill in the back story. Here, instead of battling consumerism via a Web site, Josh (as Larry) is out trying to get young people to vote. He blasts SUV drivers, the nation's "color-coded alert system" and "politicians who [have] taken so much money from Big Business for their campaign war chests that they have to listen to their concerns." When teen supporters press for a constitutional amendment to allow 18-year-olds to be eligible for the presidency, Josh's candidacy goes from symbolic to viable. But trouble looms: betagold, the woman who exposed his identity in Gospel, is back on his trail, and there's a traitor in his camp. Josh's narration moves swiftly, and the topical yet universal themes make this book even more compelling than the first. Readers will get a charge out of Josh/Larry's fiery speeches and outrageous platform, and startling facts (e.g., "Every minute, a baby in the U.S. is born without health insurance") plus a resource list in the back (with voter registration Web sites) provide plenty of fuel for those motivated by the hero's call to action. Ages 14-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This sequel continues the story of the marvelous character the author invented in The Gospel According to Larry (Laurel Leaf, ). Josh Swensen, a prodigy who rocked his teen world when he came out against consumerism on a website as a persona he named Larry, eventually faded into "pseudocide", disappearing from the lives of all who worshipped and knew him. This companion story opens as Josh/Larry is living in Colorado with his first real girlfriend who is, ironically, a committed shopper. When he is rediscovered by his best friend, true love and cohort, Beth, she persuades him to run for president for the Peace Party. Amazingly they are successful in adding a 28th amendment to make 18 the minimum age requirement to run for president of the United States. Larry's desire is to get youth voting and enlighten them about everything from SUVs to Big Business owning politicians. This is an unlikely premise, a doubtful plot, but Tashjian's brisk writing and humor makes it work as Larry speaks out against the horrors of current political ploys. Tashjan's genius is that she chooses statistics that are shocking and has invented a character with enough depth and so saucy that we can allow him to climb up on a pedestal and preach so that the book's audience can listen. There book is flavored with enough conflict and love interest that somehow it becomes a story rather than a treatise. In truth this would make a great book to read aloud in a political year and discuss current trends and youth's opinions of them! 2004, Holt, Ages 10 to 14.
—Susie Wilde
VOYA
In this sequel to The Gospel According to Larry (Henry Holt, 2001/VOYA December 2001), teen prophet Josh "Larry" Swenson returns from the dead. Hounded relentlessly after it was revealed that he was the creator of a Web site that captivated and inspired American teens by taking a stand against consumerism and celebrity worship, "Larry" staged his own death to escape the media attention. Josh is now living under an assumed name in Colorado. Beth, his best friend from his former life, tracks him down and convinces him to run for president. Despite the fact that Josh is not even old enough to vote, he hits the campaign trail as Larry again with Beth as his running mate. The goal of their Peace Party is not to win, but to enlighten voters and engage the youth of America in the political process. Josh has a fresh, intelligent voice, filled with common sense, passion, and conviction. He faces the rigors of the campaign trail, mudslinging from foes, and a tricky love triangle with self-deprecating humor and the power of his convictions. This novel is all about the idea that young people can and do make a difference when they choose to become politically involved. Josh's story offers the fresh device of showing readers the Post-It notes that Josh uses to jot down thought-provoking ideas and statistics, accurate and current to the time of publication according to the publisher. Footnotes are also used effectively, allowing the narrator to insert wry asides and extra observations in a format rarely used in fiction. Parts of the plot strain the boundaries of credibility and there are difficulties with chronology that the author does not quite explain, but overall, it is a solid and timely work thatwill make readers laugh, but more important, will make them think. Set during the current 2004 election campaign, it might just convince some teens to care. 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). 2004, Henry Holt, 240p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Heather Pittman
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Josh (aka Larry) is back-and so are Beth, Peter, Mom's spirit at Bloomingdale's, and even his old nemesis, betagold. This time, the topic de jour is politics-the electoral game, campaign financing, crooked politicians, and the power of the vote. The story begins with Larry finding a new girlfriend who has him out shopping and wearing designer clothes, until he is kidnapped by Beth, who wants him to return home and run for state representative. But that's not enough-Larry decides to run for president. Never mind that he is only 18-Congress can change that rule! When his campaign begins to gain momentum, the story's pace picks up, and the mysterious betagold reappears. Tashjian has written another sermonizing book disguised as Larry. Not that the lessons aren't interesting-they are-but in this book, they feel more like lessons. In The Gospel According to Larry (Holt, 2001) the idea was fresh and interesting, but this time it seems almost forced. The story itself is good, but is marred by sequel syndrome, unnecessary frills, and jumpy writing. Larry's fans will eat it up, but it needs Gospel to carry its weight.-Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, OR Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this companion to The Gospel According to Larry (2001), Larry's back from the dead and running for president. With the Peace Party, a 28th amendment to make 18 the minimum age a person can run for president, creative uses of the Internet, and support from music icons Bono, Sting, Aerosmith, and Norah Jones, Larry is once again head of a mass movement with the potential to change the world-yet he's never quite sure if maybe he's only out to impress a girl. Politics, romance, important social issues, and even a saboteur in the wings make this a fun, spirited romp through an election year. Tashjian's lively, comic prose, coupled with her characters' anger at politics as usual in this country, may just inspire young readers to become young voters. This can stand on its own, but those new to Larry's world will want to read the previous installment as well. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805072013
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
05/01/2004
Series:
Larry Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.62(h) x 0.87(d)
Lexile:
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Vote for Larry

PART ONE
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Boulder was beautiful.
Nestled in the Rockies, with clear, comfortable weather and lots of college students, it was the perfect place for me to settle into a semi-normal, anonymous life.
I rented a room in a Victorian-type bungalow north of the University of Colorado campus, where the hundred-year-old architecture and tree-lined streets reminded me of my home back in Massachusetts. My three housemates were nice, all students at C.U. If the media circus two years ago hadn't forced me to disappear, I'd be at Princeton now, boning up on Kant and Nietzsche. But most days, I didn't mind how my life and future had been waylaid because I never would've ended up in such a wondrous place.
Even though I'd been here for several months, the Flatirons still took me by surprise. Back home I'd been to New Hampshire and Maine to hike in the mountains many times, but living smack-dab in the middle of them was a whole different experience.
I wasn't the only person who felt this way; pretty much everyone who lived out here engaged in daily outdoor activity,as if not partaking in the immense beauty would be a sinful waste. Even the biggest computer nerd1 hiked, biked, or canoed daily. Living in Boulder was like one prolonged recess.
Because enough time had gone by and the Larry furor had dissipated,2 I let my hair return to its original brown. When people asked where I was from, I said my father was a consultant and we'd traveled around a lot. I explained that my family was now in Chicago and I didn't visit much. The name I used was Mark Paulson.
After dissecting the fall catalog on the floor of my room, I decided to concentrate my efforts not in philosophy as I'd always planned, but in the field of environmental, population, and organismic biology.3 The country's flora and fauna had nurtured me for most of my life; it seemed like an area of study that made sense. And it only took a few days at the EPOB department to realize I wanted to focus on animal behavior. I'd read several books on ethology for fun and had to suppress my enthusiasm in class each time the professor posed a question.4 I carried around my textbook like some zoological Rosetta stone, making notes in the margins daily.
I'd been painfully vigilant about never using my real name and paying for everything in cash from my various jobs, but the thought of enrolling in an institution still scared the life out ofme. Instead I sat in on classes and volunteered in the research lab without credit.
I had other projects, of course: the Inspirational Quote Word Search I'd created in fractals class and the Greek mythology flip-o-rama comic.5
I was living in nature and learning lots of new things. Life was good.
And when I met Janine, it shot straight to ecstatic.
I was trading three old CDs for new ones at my favorite used-record store on the Hill.6 I spotted her at the register--black sneakers, torn jeans, and earrings made from two fuzzy dice like the kind some people hung from their rearview mirror.
"How's it going?" I asked.
She smiled but didn't answer.
"I loved this Beck," I said. "Hate to give it up."
She nodded, still no words. I figured she was shy.
"Did the new Santana come in?"
She pointed to the rack of new releases.
"Do you ... ?" I trailed off, not sure what I wanted to say.
She reached behind the register and held up an index card. PLEASE RESPECT MY SILENCE. IT'S MY PERSONAL STATEMENT TO COMBAT THE BARRAGE OF WORDS THAT ASSAULT US EACH DAY.
I held my finger to my lips. A woman after my own heart.
"Do you do this all the time?" I asked. "You can just nod if you want to."
She turned the card over and wrote EVERY MONDAY.
I thanked her for the three-CD credit and left the store. Tomorrow was Tuesday, a much better day to pick out new CDs.
The next afternoon when we went for coffee, Janine wouldn't shut up. She talked nonstop about her poli sci classes, her family back in Seattle, the Hives concert she'd been to over the weekend. Turns out we both volunteered at the local PIRG office, canvassing and making phone calls for various consumer and environmental causes. She talked about how she'd been silent on Mondays for more than five years--a day to reflect without the distraction of speech. But after an hour and a half together, I came to the conclusion that the barrage of words Janine needed a weekly respite from was her own.
Still, she was adorable--great sense of humor, a slight stutter when she got excited, the most bizarre taste in clothes I'd ever seen. (She wore a yellow vinyl BMX jacket with splattered painter's pants and cocktail swizzle sticks tucked into her streaked hair.)
Since I'd left Boston, I had barely gone out with anyone, but Janine seemed worth the risk. I asked her if she wanted to come over Friday night to watch a movie.
She did, then left three days later.
 

 

The next several weeks were filled with late-night conversations, hikes up Mount Sanitas, and silent Mondays. I walkedher collie, Brady, on the nights she had to work. The last time I was this happy, I was sitting in my basement swing back home, composing Larry's sermons. Now I was high on the mountains of Colorado and my first real girlfriend.7
"Come on! Come on!" Janine grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the Fox Theatre. The Samples were back in town and she didn't want to miss one note.
Music was like oxygen to Janine; she couldn't go more than a few minutes without it. She knew people at every concert site within a hundred-mile radius; she got tickets way before those babies hit Ticketmaster. And always the best seats. When she jumped up and down during a show, the look on her face bordered on someone witnessing a miracle. Lucky for me, her joy was contagious.
The simplicity of what made her smile was a welcome change from how much I'd always expected from the world. She loved to sit with Brady and watch The Planet's Funniest Animals. Me? Not content till the world was at peace, till every worker earned enough to make a decent living. It was almost a relief to settle in after a day of classes to watch someone's cockatoo walk across piano keys, trying to sing.
But even with our differences, we got along fine. I came this close to telling her about the whole Larry business but decided that was a piece of baggage no relationship could withstand.
Anyone who knew me growing up would look at her and marvel at the resemblance to someone important in my life--my no-longer-with-us mother.
Not just the dark hair and the big, loud laugh, but her open and slightly manic view of the world. Sometimes the similarities were scary. When Janine brought home CDs from the store, she might as well have lifted them from my mother's album collection. Between the music and her retro clothes, the surge of memories almost knocked me across the room.
I felt like I'd come home. Except for one small thing.
Her favorite thing to do on Saturdays?
Shop.
These were the times I almost told her about Larry. Almost told her I'd had a Web site devoted to anti-consumerism, that thousands--then millions--of kids from around the world had joined me in my quest to be non-materialistic. That I'd kept my number of possessions down to seventy-five for almost four years now--didn't she notice I wore the same clothes all the time? That I'd dropped out of society because I began to be consumed. That asking me to go shopping was like gnawing on a leg of lamb in front of a group of card-carrying vegetarians. That I just couldn't do it!
At first I tried to reason with her: How could someone who volunteered ten hours a week for an activist organization spend her free time loading up on things she didn't need? She'd say she earned her money and could decide how to spend it. She even felt that buying dresses at a vintage store was a form of recycling. I told her spending was spending; weeven broke up twice because of our differing philosophies. But each time I left her apartment, the piece of me that still ached for some semblance of home begged me to call Janine back to patch things up. We always did.
So we reached a type of compromise: On those Saturdays I didn't have to work in the bakery, she could drag me to her favorite stores.8 But I would not--under any circumstances--buy anything.
It was more difficult than I thought.
Here's the part I'm almost too embarrassed to write about, that I'm revealing only in my quest to (a) understand myself better and (b) be honest with you.
I began to like going shopping.
Usually when I walked through the Pearl Street Mall,9 it was to enjoy the fresh air and the abundant opportunities to people watch. But once I actually went into stores, I realized how out-of-the-loop I was in pretty much every department of pop culture. So while Janine was trying on lipstick,10 I killed time by browsing until browsing became interesting in and of itself.
Some of the stuff was fun--T-shirts with witty sayings, aerodynamically designed kites, fountains that emanated tranquility.
The whole shopping experience was less painful than I thought it would be.
I was looking but not buying, an important distinction.
Yet it wasn't the browsing that led to my downfall.
It was Janine's thoughtful one-month anniversary present.
She walked into my bedroom carrying a large striped gift bag. Inside the bag were eleven CDs, straight from the late-night conversations we'd had about my mother's musical taste. Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, U211--all of whom contributed to my musical education. I thanked her profusely, then we stayed up all night listening to them. I was in aural nostalgic heaven, but one thought kept returning: You can't keep these and stay at seventy-five possessions. You have to get rid of them.
But I couldn't.12 I spent the next morning making a list of which of my old items to jettison. To keep the CDs, I'd be down to one pair of pants, three pairs of socks, two shirts, almost no books ... .
And here is where I admit my crime, along with my deep sense of shame.
I kept the CDs.
And the rest of my possessions.
And that, fellow pilgrim, was the beginning of the end.
Copyright © 2004 by Janet Tashjian

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